Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is certainly on to something. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was the first in a now crowded field to advocate the dismantling of Facebook and other Big Tech giants via antitrust legislation. Her proposal sets forth an iron-fisted approach to curtailing the powerof platforms that have ballooned dramatically in the last 20 years and reshaped the digital landscape in their increasingly ruthless image.
Warren’s call has caught on among 2020 presidential hopefuls. They were recently joined by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who wrote in support of breaking up the company he helped create in a New York Times op-ed.
The internet’s biggest data-thief is certainly due for a reckoning. Between helping to erode U.S. democracy in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, allowing foreign governments to influence elections, and its repeated failings to protect and make clear how it treats user data, the public has had every reason to flee the platform en masse.
For Hughes and many Democratic candidates, the trick to reining in Facebook’s influence is to strip it for parts and heavily regulate what remains. Spinning the companies under its umbrella—such as Instagram and WhatsApp—into separate businesses would certainly spur more competition and perhaps birth an upstart capable of cutting into Facebook’s outsized digital territory. Or so the thinking goes.
Matt Stoller, an antitrust expert and fellow at the Open Markets Institute, has written in favor of using antitrust law to cut down on Big Tech’s power. It’s an approach that would use the government to enforce data protection and to smash down the walls that make interoperability between platforms impossible, among other things.
“This isn’t rocket science,” Stoller told Observer. “The government should just hire an investment bank to break up the company. Then regulate the data practices and interoperability so that social networking is a neutral communications platform instead of a predatory one.”