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Breaking Up Platforms Has Sickening Implications

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Elizabeth Warren wants to design your Internet experience. Iain Murray writes:

Warren claims that her plan aims to bolster competition by breaking up “Big Tech” companies through robust antitrust enforcement, an approach now increasingly popular on both the political left andright. It is likely to backfire, and is not even necessary.

Warren’s plan would designate as “platform utilities” all companies with a global revenue of over $25 billion a year that offer an online marketplace, exchange, or platform for third parties. These companies would be forced to divest themselves of any “participant” on that platform. It seems like a simple concept, but the devil is in the details — and the lack of bright lines.

Under Warren’s plan, Apple would have to remove Apple apps from its App Store, and presumably also the App Store from iPhones, unless those became separate enterprises. Netflix would no longer be able to offer its own content alongside content from third parties. Voice devices — a fiercely competitive market at the moment — would have to direct you to a weather service rather than just telling you the weather.

The plan would essentially outlaw most large tech companies’ business models. Search firms, for instance, sell ads based on the data they collect around users’ search habits. Spinning a search engine off into a separate company would break that link, rendering the model impossible. The Internet would look and act much more primitive than the Internet we know today. Rather than what tech guru Tim O’Reilly calls the “magical use experience” that tech companies now offer their customers, virtually every online transaction would involve switching between different providers, each with its own interfaces and quirks. Using the Internet would become laborious again.

[Iain Murray, “Breaking Up Platforms Has Sickening Implications,” National Review, March 12]

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