Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren’s Plan to ‘Break Up’ Big Tech Companies Could Affect Apple’s App Store

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is in the running for the 2020 presidential race as a Democratic candidate, today outlined her proposal for "breaking up" tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook in an effort to combat monopolistic behavior (via CNBC). Apple is not directly mentioned in Warren's post on Medium, but a representative from her campaign confirmed the plan would affect Apple.

Image via CNBC and Scott Olson/Getty Images

In essence, Warren wants to make "big, structural changes" to the technology sector in order to promote increased competition. The presidential candidate says that these companies have too much power "over our economy, our society, and our democracy," in the process hurting small businesses and stifling innovation.

To combat this, Warren proposes a path to restoring competition to the tech sector in two major steps. The first is by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as "Platform Utilities" and broken apart from any participant on that platform.

This first step is what would directly affect Apple, as the App Store would become a Platform Utility, and any of Apple's first-party apps on it would not be allowed. So, the company would have to choose between running the App Store or building and selling its own apps, according to Warren spokeswoman Saloni Sharma. The same law would hit Amazon on its Marketplace and Google's ad exchange.

Second, the Warren administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing anti-competitive tech mergers. These include "unwinding" mergers like Amazon/Whole Foods/Zappos, Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram, and Google/Waze/Nest/DoubleClick.

Warren argues that undoing these mergers would promote healthy competition in the market, putting pressure back on big tech companies that would make them more responsive to user concerns, particularly about privacy. "Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy," says Warren.

Toward the end of her blog post, Warren summed up her strategy:
Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.

Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants.
Warren is among a dozen Democrats who have announced their runs for the 2020 presidential bid over the past few months, also including senator Kamala Harris, congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, governor Jay Inslee, and senator Bernie Sanders. Confirmed Republican candidates running next year include president Donald Trump and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.

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