Apple, Amazon and Google are screwing us, warns Elizabeth Warren

Potential Clinton running mate lays into anti-competitive Silicon Valley giants


Potential vice-president and Wall Street critic Elizabeth Warren has accused tech giants Apple, Amazon and Google of undermining competition and using their political clout to kill off efforts to place limits on them.

Giving the keynote [PDF] at a one-day conference titled "America's Monopoly Problem," the senator warned: "Today, in America, competition is dying."

She cited a number of industries including Wall Street, the airline industry, cable companies, healthcare and livestock and pointed out that there are fewer companies in each, leading to less competition and record profits at the cost of consumer choice.

It was the tech industry, however, that bore the brunt of her criticism.

"The second reason the decline in competition should cause concern is that big guys can lock out smaller guys and newer guys," she said. "Take a look at the technology sector – specifically, the battle between large platforms and small tech companies."

She names names: "Google, Apple, and Amazon in many cases compete with those same small companies, so that the platform can become a tool to snuff out competition."

And she gives examples:

  • Google promoting its own services ahead of competitors'
  • Apple pushing its music streaming services while putting restrictions on competitors'
  • Amazon pushing its own products and screwing anyone who competes with it

Disrupt this

"Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and every day they deliver enormously valuable products," she notes. "They deserve to be highly profitable and successful. But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again."

She also highlights that with huge profits comes power. "Concentrated markets create concentrated political power. The larger and more economically powerful these companies get, the more resources they can bring to bear on lobbying government to change the rules to benefit exactly the companies that are doing the lobbying."

She notes that FTC staff said they had found sufficient evidence of Google fixing the market for a formal investigation, but were overruled by the regulator's politically placed Commissioners. She said that the FTC is currently investigating Apple for possible anti-trust activities, and that Amazon has faced similar charges. The implication is that the regulators are not doing their job properly because of political pressure.

"Over time, this means a closed, self-perpetuating, rigged system – a playing field that lavishes favors on the big guys, hammers the small guys, and fuels even more concentration," she warns.

Veep pick

As for the solution, Senator Warren suggests several ways in which the president could resolve the concentration of power:

  • Say no to anti-competitive mergers
  • Pay closer attention to vertical mergers
  • Require all federal agencies to promote market competition and appoint heads who will do so

"Strong Executive leadership could revive antitrust enforcement in this country and begin, once again, to fight back against dominant market power and overwhelming political power," she pitches.

The speech should be viewed in several contexts.

First, Warren is a possible vice-president pick for Hillary Clinton. Even though Wall Street is bitterly opposed to her being on the Democratic ticket, it makes a certain amount of political sense. Warren is loved by the wing of the Democratic party that dislikes Clinton; she is a very effective fighter and has recently torn strips off Donald Trump in a series of speeches; and she would mean a two-woman ticket, which could bring in a lot of female voters.

As such, her speech currently holds a little more sway than would normally be the case and, in many respects, is her laying out an uncompromising position for Clinton to either accept or deny.

The speech is also an intriguing counterpoint to Hillary Clinton's courting of Silicon Valley. This week Clinton published her tech policy white paper, which was very pro-tech, and in some respects too bent toward the prevailing ideas in the Valley. Clinton is very keen to gain the support of Facebook, Google and so on – as well as their executives' cash.

Whether Warren's speech will cause Clinton to drop the idea of having her as her VP, or to set up a good-cop-bad-cop scenario, only time will tell. ®


Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022