Wow. This is an incredibly bold policy position for an American presidential candidate. Even for Elizabeth Warren.
I'm still digesting what I've just read, but I'd say my feelings on this are...complex. 😬
I think Warren's intent is good. Ensuring room for healthy competition, ensuring that users' privacy is protected, and preventing the use of mergers to limit competition are all admirable goals. And I agree with her that it's concerning how large Google, Amazon, and Facebook have become.
But I'm not sure that what she proposes — breaking up the large tech companies — can actually accomplish those goals. At least, not without potentially causing a lot of damage to consumers and the tech industry in the process.
Let's look at Google, for example. Warren proposes breaking Google Search and Google's ad exchange out into separate companies. This sounds good on the surface, but the reality is that most of Google's revenue comes from their ad exchange. And a huge portion of the revenue generated by selling ads comes via ads sold on Google Search.
Splitting those two businesses out from the rest of Google means that the rest of Google suddenly has to support its own weight without relying on the lucrative ad and search businesses. That means free services are likely to be shut down or scaled back and Google will be less able to invest in blue-sky projects like their self-driving car program. It may even make it harder for them to compete with Amazon via Google Cloud.
This also ignores the significant economies of scale Google currently benefits from by sharing codebases and infrastructure between all their products and services. If Google Search and AdWords have to split their codebases and infrastructure from the rest of the company, this creates both a massive engineering headache (what happens to shared code that all three companies use?) and a higher cost of operating overall.
The ultimate goal of regulation like this has to be to improve things for consumers. But I'm not sure if the net effect of this approach would actually be an improvement. It feels heavy handed to me — like using an axe when what we really need is a scalpel.
I also wonder if the tech industry should really be at the top of the "needs more regulation" list right now. I don't disagree that it could use more regulation, but I feel like society could benefit a lot more from better regulations on the financial industry. And I honestly think that would be easier to accomplish.
So yeah, I'm divided on this. I want Elizabeth Warren to achieve her goals of increasing competition and improving things for consumers, but I'm not sure this is actually the best way to do that.