Sen. Warren Signals Amazon Needs Shaking Up

Looking to pull one of the teeth out of FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called for the shakeup of Amazon, though one that could translate to breaking up its businesses.

That makes strange bedfellows of Warren and President Donald Trump, who has also taken aim at the edge giant.

In a Sept. 13 interview with New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, Warren was asked if she would break up the big tech companies today, as she has advocated for the big banks.

She said that size certainly worries her, but that the issue was less about breaking them up and more about addressing what they do that is anticompetitive.

She said that Amazon is both providing the marketplace for products and scraping information about those buying patterns. Amazon then uses that "special information advantage" to sell their own products in competition to others in the marketplace they are providing, effectively "wiping out" competitor's businesses.

That, she said, is "a serious problem," and one that should require Amazon to make a choice.

"You've got to pick one business or the other," she said, either platform provider or product competitor. "If you are getting a huge comparative advantage from the information you can collect as the platform provider, we no longer have competition going on."

Warren said the edge needs both government oversight and market discipline over issues of aggregating and monetizing data without accountability, issues that Washington needs to wrestle with "right now."

FAANG data collection and sharing, privacy protection or the lack of it, allegations of censoring conservative content, and the use of social media for anti-social behavior like sex and drug trafficking, terrorism and election meddling, have combined to put edge providers in the sites of legislators on both sides of the aisle. That includes rethinking the legal liability carveout social media sites enjoy for content posted by third parties.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.