Editorial: Senator Warren's stance on big tech breakup is dangerous politics

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 13
Running for President, Senator Warren proposes plans to break up big technology companies, that ignore real security concerns. You can't apply simplistic solutions to complex problems just because it's politically expedient, and you can't conveniently dance around Apple being included, then bring it in when you're forced to give a soundbite.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (source: warren.senate.gov)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (source: warren.senate.gov)


You get points in politics for pointing out a problem that we are concerned with, or especially one that we can be made to think is particularly bad. You then get more points for proposing a solution, because we would all like to think there are answers to problems. And then if you, as a politician, can move the burden of doing something about the problem on to someone else, you win the jackpot.

You could have said the most stupid thing imaginable and, for instance, technology companies might respond with the most sensible arguments, but it doesn't matter. Wrapped in the flag, you're standing up for us, and these firms are blocking your way.

We're living in a world where nuances matter more than ever and the shades of gray are pretty much infinite, but our politicians strive to present everything to us as black and white and simple.

Senator Elizabeth Warren kicked off her run for President with a blog post on Medium which does exactly this. "Here's how we can break up Big Tech," is the headline and right there it starts. There's no question about what Big Tech is, and certainly nothing about whether we should break it up. Instead, it's somehow a given that we must and here's Senator Warren, the one to do it.

Detail from Senator Warren's blog post on Medium. Apple isn't mentioned in the text, either.
Detail from Senator Warren's blog post on Medium. Apple isn't mentioned in the text, either.


Immediately after the headline comes the placard "It's time to break up Amazon, Google, and Facebook."

Those three aren't just companies, they are triggers to make us react. Facebook and Google have stunningly bad security issues that directly affect us. All three have effective monopolies. And all three are used by the readers of Medium, the younger voters that Senator Warren wants.

The senator didn't phrase it quite like that, but as AppleInsider pointed out in the initial coverage of her blog, her concocted definition that let her target these companies also meant she would have to include Apple.

She repeated her position on stage at SXSW and again avoided talking about Apple. Afterwards, she was pressed about while she kept not including the company. "No special reason," she told The Verge, before seemingly deciding to include the firm on the spot. "Yep, they're in."

Her definition of big, and her position on scale and influence ought to also mean Walmart is a target, but that firm is safe because nobody's asked her about it yet.

Senator Warren has apparently decided she'll get better results by sharing a subset of details explicitly with one group, and another subset with a different crowd. Figuring out how we can benefit from technology, while keeping ourselves and are data safe may be crucial to our society but it's also complex. "Big Companies Are Bad" fits better on a hat, and even better if you can only signal which ones you want to break up selectively, depending on the audience at hand.

It's an odd thing in American history where on the one hand everybody must be able to create and build up their own business, but at some indefinable point every big business is evil.

"Natural Monopoly"

We've quite reasonably come to take the word "monopoly" as negative because so often monopolies have employed anti-competitive practices to protect their position. But sometimes you get to effective monopoly status by just being good.

"You know, the natural monopoly argument is actually... not everyone accepts it," she told The Verge. "And there's some back-and-forth about whether that's the phenomenon we're dealing with here or not. My view is: I don't care. [Laughs] I'm sorry. What I do care about is I can see the advantages the platform gets, and because of that I say, 'Stop. You cannot use that information, the data you're able to collect.'"

Senator Warren is trying to equate size and competition with security and safety. If you can gather data on your users and profit from it, you must be doing so and so you must be stopped. Break up large firms because they're large and that's it, problem solved.

This chooses to skip over the fact that, for instance, the giant Facebook company sold data to the small Cambridge Analytica. If you can't have one large firm owning all our information, you apparently can have lots of small ones that trade in it, and that's somehow okay.

It also brushes aside the fact that a monopoly does not automatically equal the selling of user data. Senator Warren never mentions Apple until she's under pressure to, but then when she is, she of course chooses to stand by her politics and add them to the problem. "Yep, they're in."

Selectivity and elections

If she gets into the White House, she's going to be under a lot more pressure. So just for political expediency, the one big technology company that is championing user security would then get the same treatment as the firms that are repeatedly and intentionally profiting from breaking our privacy.






That doesn't matter to Senator Warren, because none of this does. She is running for President and everything must be focused on that one goal. Write on Medium, talk at SXSW, criticize Facebook, and she's got a shot at the votes from younger people who know this world. Claim that splitting up companies will fix the problems, and she's now aiming at the votes of older generations who remember how this arguably fixed a century-old problem, or the whole "Ma Bell" situation.

When your aim is to get votes, you can keep it simple. When you get the votes and you are in power, then you have to deal with the realities. Senator Warren wants to avoid talking about those now, unless pressed to do so, because reality is complicated.

Consequently she has made no comment -- because no one's really pressed her on it yet -- about how Apple makes iOS and macOS, how it runs the myriad iCloud services, and how it locks users in to all of those. Just as Google locks you in to its own walled garden of services and apps.

Instead, and again only when pushed to say it, she gives up the App Store. Break Apple away from its App Store and apparently everything is fine.

That is, everything is fine except for the loss of security that users will get hit with as a result. Take Apple out of its own store, and you end up with the same kind of mess that the Google Play store is.

This issue and so many more with technology are now fundamental to how our society functions and dumbing them down to fit on a tweet does not help us, and that is essentially what we have here. Simple solutions sound great, but when they're not actually solutions, they're part of the problem.

Senator Warren has ably identified at least some issues that concern us all. But what she's really done, and all she really wanted to do, is find topics that she can campaign on.

Politicians look weak if they tell us they don't know the answers, but on technology issues, nobody knows the answers. Pretending that you are the one to fix it all, and that good old-fashioned American values will see us through is patronizing at best.

The one thing about every political campaign is that they come to an end. Senator Warren will ride this one as long as it looks like it's serving her, but even if that means she gets into the White House, her simple solutions won't work. They don't make us more secure, they don't save us any money, and they don't actually do anything positive for the citizenry.

But they sound great, can be jammed in a Tweet, and that's all she needs today.
sacto joelolliver
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 95
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    You know the rules. If you don't, or need a refresher, there's a link at the bottom of every forum page.

    Avoid the wide-brushes, please, even if you think that you're on the side of good.
    edited March 13 lolliver
  • Reply 2 of 95
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 929member
    When you have absolutely no experience in running a business and no one in their right-mind will hire you, what do you do? Get in to government and attempt to regulate said business... :/

    There are plenty of socialist countries looking for "leaders" just like her. Why do these people never go to where they are wanted or "needed" like Venezuela? {Rhetorical question for the dunces out there...}
    edited March 13 boboqdesignrrosse59libertyandfreepulseimages
  • Reply 3 of 95
    heli0sheli0s Posts: 14member
    In 2019 America only 2-3 major companies dominate every major economic sector, from ecommerce to air travel, to the TV shows you watch - if think that's good for consumers, you're massively ignorant of both economics and history. Tech monopolies are no different than monopolies in any other sphere - there is a point when too big is bad for consumers and the company itself. Monopolies have no interest in innovation, they have an interest in rent-seeking.

    As an Apple-focused site, look no further than the keyboard issues of recent Macs. If you want macOS, there is ONE company that makes it. So take that shitty keyboard or go use Windows. Real choice!
    Japhey
  • Reply 4 of 95
    boboqboboq Posts: 7member
    Unfortunately, this is simply politics as usual. Disheartening, to say the least. 
    designrbshank
  • Reply 5 of 95
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,101member
    Amusing to me how liberal politicians are so eager to limit the size and power of corporations in the name of the people but think a giant, all powerful, all knowing, all controlling government is just fine. In fact the bigger the better as far as the size and influence of government with types like Warren.  
    macseekerdesignrrosse59stompyholysmokesrazorpitMicDorseywatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 95
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 953member
    heli0s said:
    In 2019 America only 2-3 major companies dominate every major economic sector, from ecommerce to air travel, to the TV shows you watch - if think that's good for consumers, you're massively ignorant of both economics and history. Tech monopolies are no different than monopolies in any other sphere - there is a point when too big is bad for consumers and the company itself. Monopolies have no interest in innovation, they have an interest in rent-seeking.

    As an Apple-focused site, look no further than the keyboard issues of recent Macs. If you want macOS, there is ONE company that makes it. So take that shitty keyboard or go use Windows. Real choice!
    There is one company that makes Samsung TVs, One Company that makes Sony Devices etc. they all run their own software. Apple tried the software licensing route and it was end by Steve Jobs when he returned because it nearly bankrupted the company. Why should they cheapen their system with garbage Hardware like windows supports. Just like you don’t like Apples keyboards, they are far more who do. So you have choice. You can alway by an external keyboard too. Good luck. 
    thinkman@chartermi.netpscooter63stompysteven n.ArloTimetravelern2itivguygilly33bshanklolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 95
    LOL...Warren isn't doing anything different than what media companies or businesses do themselves when it comes to distributing information. You have to choose a central focus to get the point across. That central focus isn't going to include every single piece of detail that's relevant to the issue. And the idea that it's somehow bad to include info that "triggers people to react" is a hopelessly cynical double-standard coming from a web site that is almost entirely focused around rumors and hot takes on Apple and their competitors that often turn out to be completely wrong. The fact that people react like this when large tech companies are challenged on something to do with their business just proves Warren's points.
    blurpbleepbloop
  • Reply 8 of 95
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,101member
    heli0s said:
    In 2019 America only 2-3 major companies dominate every major economic sector, from ecommerce to air travel, to the TV shows you watch - if think that's good for consumers, you're massively ignorant of both economics and history. Tech monopolies are no different than monopolies in any other sphere - there is a point when too big is bad for consumers and the company itself. Monopolies have no interest in innovation, they have an interest in rent-seeking.

    As an Apple-focused site, look no further than the keyboard issues of recent Macs. If you want macOS, there is ONE company that makes it. So take that shitty keyboard or go use Windows. Real choice!
    But I guess giant government is just fine, huh? Government can never get so big that it it’s bad for the people? Never fear, the elites will take care of our every need. Oh, and Apple is NOT a monopoly, even unto itself. Psystar found that out the hard way.
    edited March 13 designrsteven n.milleronbshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 95
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    LOL...Warren isn't doing anything different than what media companies or businesses do themselves when it comes to distributing information. You have to choose a central focus to get the point across. That central focus isn't going to include every single piece of detail that's relevant to the issue. And the idea that it's somehow bad to include info that "triggers people to react" is a hopelessly cynical double-standard coming from a web site that is almost entirely focused around rumors and hot takes on Apple and their competitors that often turn out to be completely wrong. The fact that people react like this when large tech companies are challenged on something to do with their business just proves Warren's points.
    We don't have any governing power, at all, nor are we trying to get elected President, so your point is flat. We're not making decisions for you.
    edited March 13 thinkman@chartermi.netstompyn2itivguybshank
  • Reply 10 of 95
    Never fear, the elites will take care of our every need.
    The corporate world is full of elites. That's why wage stagnation has become such a big issue.
    russwTickTockNik
  • Reply 11 of 95
    We don't have any governing power, at all, nor are we trying to get elected President, so your point is flat. We're not making decisions for you.
    But you're primarily criticizing the messaging...so that's entirely meaningless. You're trying to say that Warren is somehow being "dangerous" by using a messaging approach that is entirely common in the media and corporate world. That's a huge double-standard.
    ricks1919blurpbleepbloop
  • Reply 12 of 95
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    But you're primarily criticizing the messaging...so that's entirely meaningless. You're trying to say that Warren is somehow being "dangerous" by using a messaging approach that is entirely common in the media and corporate world. That's a huge double-standard.  
    You're welcome to have any opinion you like. There is an enormous difference in scale, influence, venues, audiences, and decision-making power between Warren and AppleInsider. We don't make laws, nor will we ever, so equating the two is an odd parallel to draw.

    And, our primary criticism isn't the messaging even though it is one aspect of the article. It's very clearly the message.

    There is a giant difference in lawmaking between "Hey, I want to break up A,B, and C" and then when the rubber hits the road saying "Oh yeah, and D,E, and F too. There's no real reason why I didn't put the company in big letters, like I did for A,B and C." 
    edited March 13 designrpscooter63stompymuthuk_vanalingambshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 95
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,264member
    All I know is that she lost my vote. 
    feacouniscapepulseimagesbshank
  • Reply 14 of 95
    heli0sheli0s Posts: 14member
    lkrupp said:
    heli0s said:
    In 2019 America only 2-3 major companies dominate every major economic sector, from ecommerce to air travel, to the TV shows you watch - if think that's good for consumers, you're massively ignorant of both economics and history. Tech monopolies are no different than monopolies in any other sphere - there is a point when too big is bad for consumers and the company itself. Monopolies have no interest in innovation, they have an interest in rent-seeking.

    As an Apple-focused site, look no further than the keyboard issues of recent Macs. If you want macOS, there is ONE company that makes it. So take that shitty keyboard or go use Windows. Real choice!
    But I guess giant government is just fine, huh? Government can never get so big that it it’s bad for the people? Never fear, the elites will take care of our every need. Oh, and Apple is NOT a monopoly, even unto itself. Psystar found that out the hard way.
    I don't care about how "big" government is, I care about how effective it is. America already has a giant government, which is fitting for being the world's largest economy and a country of 340 million people. The problem is not the size, the problem is who government works for now. Clue: it's not average Americans - something that everyone agrees, whether you're conservative or liberal. That has to change. At least with government, you can vote these people out and change who represents you. Try quitting Facebook, or Amazon, or Google - it's impossible. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 95
    feacofeaco Posts: 9member
    It is a shame when incompetent politicians make really stupid comments. Why should a company be broken up because they have been successful? Apple has been successful in the design, manufacture and marketing of electronic equipment. They have done more than "finding their niche", in many cases they have "created their niche". They are not a monopoly and have plenty of competitors.

    The upside of this is that the more that Warren talks, the fewer votes she will get. She will be a has been also ran soon. She certainly will not get my vote.
    stompyrazorpitn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 95
    waltgwaltg Posts: 87member
    Isn’t it amazing how politics always brings out the top cream of the crop MORONS......
  • Reply 17 of 95
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,834member
    feaco said:
    It is a shame when incompetent politicians make really stupid comments. Why should a company be broken up because they have been successful? 
    That's not the reason.  You should pay more attention to what Warren says.
    lordjohnwhorfin
  • Reply 18 of 95
    Mike Wuerthele said:  You're welcome to have any opinion you like. There is an enormous difference in scale, influence, venues, audiences, and decision-making power between Warren and AppleInsider.
    Yes, but I'm sure you're aware that Warren can't actually make any of these things happen by herself, even if elected President. You would need legislation that could pass Congress, similar to Obama promising broad health care reform on the campaign trail that later became the Affordable Care Act. Did Obama have all the details when campaigning as to what the ACA would turn out to be? No. Did that make it "dangerous" to appeal to the population about it without all those details? No. The key is being aware as a citizen that the campaign topics are a form of overview, just as the key to being a consumer is being aware that product presentations or advertisements are an overview. You never get all of the details in either situation. 
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 19 of 95
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,101member
    All I know is that she lost my vote. 
    She has no chance of getting nominated anyway. She cooked her own goose with the Native American claims. Whether you’re left or right, D or R, the vast majority of the country is solidly moderate and centrist. What we see in the daily media are the extremes of both sides because it makes good political theatre and gets clicks. My father was a Democrat operative back in the day. He had a business card that said, “I’m a Democrat and you’re a Republican but we can still be friends. I’ll hug your elephant and you can kiss my ass.” 
    pulseimagesbshank
  • Reply 20 of 95
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 280member
    razorpit said:
    When you have absolutely no experience in running a business and no one in their right-mind will hire you, what do you do? Get in to government and attempt to regulate said business... :/

    There are plenty of socialist countries looking for "leaders" just like her. Why do these people never go to where they are wanted or "needed" like Venezuela? {Rhetorical question for the dunces out there...}
    First of all, Venezuela is a corrupt-authoritarian-state, and it has been for the last 20 years. They just call them selves "socialist" because it's easier to say. I know, because I'm from there. 

    Second of all, Warren is saying is that if your company makes more than 100M a year your company has a obligation of neutrality. It's not about regulating, it's about laying rules to benefit the consumer. By no means, its a perfect solution, but it is a fair conversation. You should read a bit more and inform yourself before writing bluff. 
    lordjohnwhorfinRestrained_Nicholasblurpbleepbloopbulk001fastasleep
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