FTC Chairman Joseph Simons says he’s fully willing to break up big tech

Simons says it "could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition."

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The next US presidential election is more than a year away – and it’s not yet even known who will run – but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the US media today.

Election campaigning seems to be in full swing – and if fact it has been for a while now. In something of a twist on the old “vote often, vote early” adage, a Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, fired her shot across the bow of Big Tech as early as March this year – and her idea was to “break the giants up.

And this idea has been echoed often since – but with little insight into how this business may go ahead, and on what legal grounds it may proceed. Warren’s proposal has since been interpreted as treating the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook as abusing their position for anti-competitive purposes.

And now, US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons has told Bloomberg that this institution was prepared to carry out the plan and break up the giants “by undoing past mergers.”

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This is one of the ideas Warren has proposed, specifically when it comes to Facebook buying WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google and Amazon acquiring Waze and Whole Foods, respectively.

Simons, meanwhile, admitted that implementing such ideas, in reality, would be difficult – in his own words, “very messy”- but that this “could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.”

However, not everyone is convinced. As expected, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, while attempting to pacify the onslaught of criticism against his company by saying he would welcome “regulation” – still argued that “breaking up the company wouldn’t address legislators’ privacy and data concerns.”

But privacy and data concerns may not be what those seeking this particular course of action are after, anyway – or at least, it may not be their priority.

Meanwhile, the FTC and the Department of Justice (DoJ) are conducting separate investigations into tech giants to find out if they might be stifling competition. In his interview with Bloomberg, Simons said that these inquiries have been divided up between these bodies “based on specific conduct, not on the companies themselves.”

And there is one Big Tech player that both the FTC and the DoJ might be investigating – though the report did not reveal which one.

Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]