Warren and Progressives Mount Main Push to Break Up Fb and Amazon
Facebook and other social media companies are heavily criticized these days from both the right and the left. However, the biggest threat to giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google may be increasingly diverse coalitions led by progressives trying again to break up large tech monopolies.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, and Rep. Mondaire Jones, a Democrat on the House Justice Antitrust Subcommittee, are expected to announce a new push to disband Facebook and Google this week, along with Freedom From Facebook and Google, a growing coalition by stakeholders who have argued that corporations are two of the “most dangerous monopolies” in the world.
Warren campaigned for the president to break up big technology, and proponents see the Senator as key to pushing the Biden administration to enforce antitrust rules and Congress to develop new rules. Democratic members of the Antitrust Subcommittee published a groundbreaking report last year with a number of ideas on how to dissolve large tech companies and update antitrust rules for digital commerce after years of growing tech companies into alleged monopolies.
“We are seeing unprecedented momentum within the federal government – and also at the state level – to address the power of these platforms and the damage they are causing to democracy and civil rights,” said Morgan Harper, legal and political director for American Economic Liberties Project, in an interview. “You need to look into the business model to also fix the damage these platforms are causing.”
Meanwhile, Florida Republican Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday allegedly aimed at “censoring” political candidates through social media platforms. However, the new law was swiftly passed by critics and legal experts as a sign of loyalty to former President Trump that has little chance of standing in court. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter and his Facebook account was banned for lying and inciting violence about the elections he lost after a crowd of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
While conservatives accuse Facebook of “censoring” them while the company tries to contain misinformation, progressives say the company is not doing enough to prevent openly racist messages and violent conspiracy theories from spreading on its platform. For progressives, however, this problem is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the giant social media company that also owns the Instagram and WhatsApp platforms.
On Tuesday, a separate coalition of progressive watchdog and media justice groups released a litany of 70 public complaints against Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Complaints range from mass surveillance and alleged data breaches supporting the company’s targeted advertising to the silence of Palestinian activists criticizing the Israeli occupation. Critics say Facebook, like Google and Amazon, has attempted to secure monopoly power over its respective markets by developing “predatory” business practices that profitably collect user data and leave minorities online open to discrimination.
Like Google and Amazon, critics say Facebook tried to secure monopoly power over its respective markets by developing “predatory” business practices.
The list represents a wide range of complaints from various ideological interests, but they broadly agree that Facebook’s own efforts to appease critics haven’t gone far enough, as profit remains the company’s top priority. For example, the groups say Facebook has deliberately amplified racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and alterist messages and disinformation because it encourages engagement – a far cry from the right-wing complaints about censorship. The business model of “surveillance capitalism” is simply not compatible with human rights and democracy.
“Rather than being a tool for social movements that fight for justice and liberation, Facebook has become a machine for promoting tyranny, corruption and greed,” said Evan Greer, organizer of the Digital Justice Group Fight for the Future. in a statement. “Using algorithms optimized to generate ad revenue amplifies some of the worst content on the internet while actively silencing and suppressing the voices of marginalized people, activists, artists and creators.”
The coalition, which includes groups like Accountable Tech and Data for Black Lives, is calling on Congress to split Facebook into smaller companies and write regulations that “force big tech companies to find a new business model that doesn’t intrusive surveillance relies on users, ”said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen.
“The ongoing activities of Facebook, let alone the expansive drafts, are incompatible with the functioning of a democratic society,” Weissman said in a statement on Tuesday when activists forwarded the complaints to Facebook. “The company has too much political power, too much surveillance capacity, too little consideration for its users, too little respect for color communities and oppressed groups around the world, and far too little self-restraint.”
Facebook receives a lot of attention for its oversized role in the social media universe and a seemingly endless stream of political controversy, but activists and antitrust lawyers are also trying to break up Google and Amazon, which are also supposed monopolies that control huge swaths of the internet. If Congress writes an antitrust law with Facebook in mind, the rules will likely apply to other tech giants who are crowding out competition and making massive profits from data surveillance.
The fight has already found its way into the courts. On Tuesday, the Washington, DC attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon alleging the e-commerce giant illegally maintained monopoly power by preventing independent sellers from offering their products on other platforms at lower prices says The Verge. Google is facing multiple antitrust lawsuits over its alleged dominance in the search engine business, including a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in October.
The big tech industry is well aware of the growing movement to hold them accountable. In March, Public Citizen reported that Facebook and Amazon are the biggest single business lobbying spend in the US today, outperforming traditional lobbying powerhouses like tobacco companies and fossil fuel manufacturers. (The analysis examines individual companies and excludes trade groups that aggregate spending on lobbying for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, for example.)
During the 2020 election cycle, major tech companies spent a total of $ 124 million more than ever on lobbying and campaigning. According to the report, Amazon’s spending increased 30 percent while Facebook spending increased 56 percent.
Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.