A rare thing is happening in the US capital. Progressives, conservatives and the Trump administration are probing the internet giants. Two companies are particularly in the crosshairs of lawmakers and regulators.
It does not happen every day that Greg Walden, a longtime Republican Congressman from Oregon and Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator and progressive presidential candidate, agree on a key political issue.
But Walden, who was a key player in the GOP’s failed effort to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care law that made health care available for millions of Americans, and Elizabeth Warren, who campaigns for an even more expansive health insurance reform called Medicare for All, agree that it is time to regulate the US-based internet giants.
Already last year when Facebook’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, testified before Congress, Walden offered a pointed — and it turns out — prophetic inquiry. “At what point is a platform like that a common carrier in the information age?” he asked, referring to the US government’s definition of a utility which, applied to Facebook, would enable the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the company. What gives Walden’s willingness to consider regulating Facebook even more weight is the fact that Facebook operates a data center in his electoral district.
Warren, meanwhile, made breaking up Google, Facebook and Amazon a key plank of her election campaign. After the rollout of a policy proposal on how Warren plans to unwind Big Tech, last month saw the erecting of a billboard in the heart of Silicon Valley that calls for the breakup of the major internet companies.
From darling to target
With their pronounced views on regulating Big Tech, Walden and Warren may earlier have been outliers in their respective parties, but over the past year the notion that Google, Facebook, Amazon and others have accrued too much power and should be regulated has rapidly evolved from fringe to mainstream.
“These corporations were really the darlings of American commerce, and it’s hard to believe, as someone who has been working on these issues for three or four years, how quickly that has changed, not just among progressives, but also among conservatives here in the US,” said Sarah Miller, deputy director of the Open Markets Institute, an anti-monopoly think tank in Washington. “So if I were sitting in Silicon Valley I would start to get a little bit worried right now.”