The presidential race and rising anger at Silicon Valley’s power are giving new lift to the Open Markets Institute’s crusade against online monopolies.
A small liberal think tank has spent years urging Washington to crack down on the United States’ biggest tech companies — a lonely crusade that barely registered with the political establishment.
Now the Open Markets Institute has become one of the most influential drivers of Democratic politics in the fight to rein in Facebook, Amazon and Google, seeing its ideas embraced by Elizabeth Warren and forcing presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Joe Biden to take a side.
The idea that Silicon Valley companies are this generation’s monopolies? Open Markets has been banging that drum for a long time. The argument that the internet giants are a threat to American democracy? The group has been making that case way before it became mainstream.
Open Markets believes the major online companies need government intervention, including in some cases breaking them apart the way Standard Oil was split more than a century ago. And it’s seizing the political moment created by Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 election victory, which has put the tech industry on the defensive over everything from Russian disinformation to data privacy.
“When Trump won, it turned out that Google and Facebook were not magicians,” said Matt Stoller, an Open Markets fellow and former staffer on the Senate Budget Committee under ranking member Sanders (I-Vt.). “They were just marketers, and that was a massive hit to the prestige of ‘Big Tech.’”