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U.S. Senator Wants to Break Up Tech Giants

including Amazon, Facebook and Google.

     
5:15 pm on Mar 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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A U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Warren, plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Ms. Warren’s plan would also force the rollback of some acquisitions by technological giants, the campaign said, including Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze. Companies would be barred from transferring or sharing users’ data with third parties. Dual entities, such as Amazon Marketplace and AmazonBasics, would be split apart.


[nytimes.com...]

This is a major plan, but only a plan. It'll be very interesting to see if it gets any traction.
2:39 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the post and link to the story.

Anyone that knows me understands how much I despise big tech companies that abuse their dominance. Many of these companies, such as Google, also own subsidiaries that can also be seen as monopolies. But I think there needs to be a different approach to addressing these issues then what Warren discussed. Instead of breaking up these big tech companies first, by forcing them to sell off some of their assets, why not look at breaking up or heavily restructuring those Federal agencies that allowed this to happen in the first place? As was discussed at [webmasterworld.com...] the FTC went after a seller on Amazon for posting fake reviews while the FTC placed no burden of responsibility on Amazon for displaying fake information despite it being their marketplace. Federal regulators have simply become lazy, and go after the low hanging fruit, while big tech companies get a free pass. Unless the regulators themselves are reformed, and antiquated antitrust laws modernized, there can be no lasting benefit of breaking up any company.

I do strongly agree with Warren that taxpayer handouts to big tech companies is a problem. Often cities right next to each other will club one another over the head trying to give away taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be used to maintain services, roads, etc. I saw that myself when a large company moved about 10 minutes away from my home. The city granted this company a large tax incentive package and the state chipped in too. But here's the problem, this company moved only 15 minutes away from its prior location (in state move). While taxpayers paid for new roads, sidewalks and parking garages for this one company, city inspectors were on the other side of town marking resident's sidewalks that needed to be repaired out of their own pockets or they would be fined. Fast forward about five years, and there is no money in the budget for road repairs elsewhere in the city because they spent most of it on one company's needs. It's no surprise that politicians are now seeking a property tax increase for road repairs while that big company is still paying no property taxes to the city.

I think the easiest way to deal with big business tax incentive handouts is to require states, counties and cities to report such occurrences to the Federal Government. The Feds could then deduct an amount not less than the actual tax incentive package value from any Federal funds they receive which would essentially make taxpayer handouts a zero sum game. Regardless of how it is done, tax incentive packages/giveaways needs to end because they often strengthen already dominant players in an industry and place small businesses at an even greater disadvantage.
3:00 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The seller targeted for fake reviews was the bad actor.

Amazon was protected by Safe Harbor. A different set of laws.

Monopolies are monopolies. Laws exist to deal with those, however the will and heart to use them has to come from those who are elected to office. And are smart enough to examine what consequences can occur if they don't get it right.
3:04 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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"Tech Giants" have already done substantial damage to the economy, society and democracy. Federal Agencies by their neglect (dereliction of duty) unintentional or intentional (intentional if you ask me) are equally culpable. While our main concern should be on how best to remedy and move forward, all those culpable for the damage already done should not escape justice and punishment - devastating punishment at that, exemplary, commensurate to the magnitude of their crimes and as warning to those contemplating similar kinds of abuse.

No clemency, no prisoners taken.
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5:48 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In the U.S., monopolies aren't illegal per se, and companies don't get broken up just because they're big.

This may be helpful:

[ftc.gov...]
6:32 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@editorialguy - I do not recollect anybody on WebmasterWorld, including on this thread, ever promoting the notion that monopolies are illegal per se. So I was wondering what constructive point you were trying to make with your contribution.
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8:15 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is the Sherman Antitrust Act which was was passed in 1890 still in force? I have some dim recollection of reading that the Reagan presidency had watered it down.

U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Warren may well be aiming for a breakup, but without improbable Republican senate support or later on a Democrat controlled senate - it won't happen.

Conservative governments hate reforms - too unsettling.
10:10 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Sherman is still large and in charge. Was the vehicle that broke of up. Slammed MS, and remains a threat to the tech giants. However, it is only one of three that applies, so the Sword of Damocles can swing from many directions. As noted, it only take the will to do so ... and that's not likely to happen with all the g lobbyists AND the ex-g folks who are actually in US gov at the moment.

PLUS, keeping things as they are will help one party over another in an event coming up in 2020. Saying more gets into "politics" as to why/what ... but generically, the tools exist in USA law.

IF they are applied will it benefit the webmaster at large? Probably not. Didn't make a difference when the railroads were squashed, or the Standard Oil, or Bell, or MS ... the critters just find another way to be a SMALLER monopoly by playing nice with each other. Nature of the beast. Think Hydra and cutting off heads and more parts of the beast growing.

BUT, if FIRST AMENDMENT (USA Bill of Rights) is ALSO APPLIED then something else entirely can happen. And in that ... the little guy WINS. (Aside: don't expect that kind of commonsense ... politicos don't think that way, and hate it like the plague!)
10:11 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm.... checking to see if Bell is verbotten? My second sentence above makes no sense without it.
11:03 pm on Mar 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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LOL ... Warren wanting tech giants to pay for poor government policy -- She just might as well go after the banks and the insurance companies while she's at it.
1:18 am on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@heisje, I fall of(added an F) so off, from a political wagon once in a while myself. Sometimes it feels like all 6 WHEELS(pun intended, where is wheels btw?) come off. But then again, leave EG along, we need IT.
1:40 am on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Just keep it real. This is foo, after all ... nothing burger.
3:00 am on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Amazon and Facebook are hard left supporters so why would a hard left politician want hard left supporting companies broken up? I think the answer is the big elephant in the room, the foreign mostly globalist special interest groups who want all influential institutions they don't control broken up. The billions of dollars they spend in our electoral processes today is no secret anymore.

Personally I just want politics to get back to the congress floor where it belongs and not have political bias seeping out of every pore of every platform we have from mainstream media to social media to big tech to hollywood. All its done is make people lean in their directions harder than ever before. Mrs Warren announcing plans directly to the NYTimes and not to congress first doesn't bridge divides, it reinforces them due to the bias these platforms have.

As for new laws, no thanks, the bias is too strong and the DoJ or FBI are very likely to enforce them one(political) way right now, that has to be fixed first, the trust is gone according to multiple recent polls. Trump wll be gone in 5 years max but this other stuff will be remembered.
4:03 am on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@tangor

Point well taken. I have not dug into safe harbor laws recently, but if memory serves me correct Amazon would need to demonstrate a good faith effort to be exempt. I've seen many cases where product reviews and seller feedback are blatantly fake, and Amazon refused to remove them when reported, which makes me question what would satisfy law for a good faith effort. As the worlds largest ecommerce company, Amazon should set the standard in accurate/legitimate product reviews, but from what I see they don't do much at all. Regardless, the bar needs to be raised so that the protection of consumers is above that of any business.
7:49 am on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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As to why:
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right....

Simplistic populist solutions which appeal to the base and cause more problems than they solve seem to be the order of the day no matter which party is running their mouths.
12:27 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Simplistic populist solutions which appeal to the base

So then, do you find the current situation acceptable? Should matters remain as they now stand? Left to further develop at their own pace & course?
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1:07 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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solutions which appeal to the base
Last I knew it was called democracy.
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Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
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5:05 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Mod note to thread participants: Please let's not get into party politics at all.

This is about the potential break up of big tech.
5:10 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Last I knew it was called democracy.


Thank you for the pithy quote, Professor. I didn't know that.

Since you're schooling me, I'll turn in my homework: Representative government has nothing to do whether policy proposals are good or bad.
5:33 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Big Tech will not be broken up by anything ... except politics ... however I agree that discussing politics will not address the issue of breaking up Big Tech as it relates to webmasters.

A better question would have been "How would YOU break up big tech as it presently exists?"
10:56 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@engine re: political thread : it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck - then it says it's not a duck!
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11:19 pm on Mar 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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^^^Quack! Do note that no metrics to participation at WW are allowed in FOO, other than "likes". IOW, your metrics to achieve membership rank can accrue. (message counts, time in grade, etc)

All in all, a kind of silly conversation to start with. With serious implications in the real world, of course.
12:03 am on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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^^^ It is comments like this that piss-off people off posting on WW. Get a life . . . .
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1:48 am on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Can you even call it politics? It's a politician wanting to break up a corporation based on the perceived social impact that has not been discussed in congress, much less decided upon.

I don't think you can call it politics because A) she went to the NYTimes and not congress with this. B) She said a thing and so demands it be accepted as fact to break up the company but there's a whole lot of steps, including figuring out if she's even right, in between those two things. C) Why is a liberal politician wanting liberal companies taken apart? or rather, for who and why?

You can't deny that a socialist revival push is under way by half of the current senators, how much of dismantling a big company has that goal in mind? It's a serious question. You can't skip all the steps and go outside congress where laws are made to push an agenda, even if you attach "for the kids" to it.

I suppose we can wait for her to take it up in congress and listen to that debate if it ever happens but since this went straight to media first it's a non-starter for now. We're in an election year all the time now according to media.
2:39 am on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Apple is on her hit list, too:

[theverge.com...]
1:18 pm on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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"How would YOU break up big tech as it presently exists?"


Get search out of the Ad's business -- so we can go back to treating DoubleClick (for instance) for what it really is, and "actually" find what we're "actually" looking for.
Let each big brand serve ads (social media) only within the confines of their own walled garden MSN/AOL style. (restrict cookies to only their respective internet properties)
Get rid of the Facebook/Amazon market places -- If Facebook/Amazon are so good and so important then they shouldn't have any problem going it on their own.
Strip Microsoft/Google/Amazon from the Cloud business -- Mainframes are what they are regardless of how many times you try to rebrand them.
Free up the bandwidth by getting Google/Microsoft/Apple out of the browser/appstore business.

Ship operating systems as stand-alone --- No baked in browsers/search/ads/apps/cloud utilities.
3:03 pm on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Regarding Search : split indexing from display, so that multiple search providers may use the index to present search results in the most distinct & competitive way they see fit - and let consumers decide which provider fits them best. Let Google compile & distribute the index, as happens today, but under broad guidelines benefiting consumers. Google may also opt to continue providing search results in the distinct role of search provider, either in today's format or an improved format, and see what happens. I expect Google are smart enough, technically adept and experienced to continue keeping a substantial market share as display providers in addition to enjoying profits from compiling & distributing the index.

Legitimate profits, acquired in a legitimate manner within a competitive business framework beneficial to consumers.
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3:45 pm on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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split indexing from display, so that multiple search providers may use the index to present search results


Just let Google search fly on it's own without anything else.

The number of mergers and acquisitions over the years is in fact somewhat mind boggling -- Just imagine how much different and totally open the internet would be if Google didn't own even half of this stuff -- [en.wikipedia.org...]
5:24 pm on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Get search out of the Ad's business

Let Google compile & distribute the index

Just let Google search fly on it's own without anything else.


so... who pays for this?
5:28 pm on Mar 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@mcneely : thanks for the excellent link. Data there demonstrates in detail and beyond any doubt the classic monopolist game of killing competition by buying out competitors, a practice that Google has been following for almost 20 years. It also demonstrates how negligent Authorities have been in allowing this to happen, especially in major buyouts that many now suggest should be reversed.
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