Senator Warren Calls Out 21st Century Digital Robber Barons

by July 22, 2016

During a recent speech on competition and the American economy, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who some politicos consider to be in the running for the Democratic “veepstakes,” took aim at the growing concentration of power and wealth in Silicon Valley’s tech industry.

Warren, who rose to national prominence railing against Wall Street and big banks, decided to single out big tech firms due to rising concerns among privacy groups, businesses, government regulators, civil rights leaders and others about the influence of companies like Google, Comcast, Apple and Facebook; power which has gone virtually unchecked in the emerging digital economy.

The first-term senator from Massachusetts offered her critique of the industry, in a little-noticed speech titled, “Reigniting Competition in the American Economy,” at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., where she warned that Silicon Valley’s billionaire class and Internet-age monopolies threaten to undermine the competition that has long driven the nation’s economy.

“For markets to work, there has to be competition,” Warren explained. “But today in America, competition is dying. Concentration threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.”

Warren’s criticism comes as a number of groups have started to push back against the threat that they say is the result of the growing concentration of power among Internet giants.

For example, civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition continue to advocate for economic justice through his Silicon Valley race diversity campaign. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has also embarked on a campaign to draw attention to Facebook’s dominance in news aggregation that the group says could threaten the future of community newspapers.

In her speech, Warren pointed her finger directly at the powerful technology and cable companies with enormous leverage over markets that have worked to put up barriers for competitors to enter their markets. Nowhere are such efforts more evident than among the giants of Silicon Valley, which have been favored by some regulators inside the Capital Beltway.

Perhaps no other company embodies the alleged abuse more than Apple. The popular electronics producer has sought to block competition at nearly every turn and through nearly every avenue. According to Parks Associates, an internationally recognized market research and consulting company, Apple controls 40 percent of the smartphone market. “The Wall Street Journal” reported that Apple collected 92 percent of all profits in the smartphone industry market in 1995. Apple has effectively leveraged its position to snuff out competitors, or to dictate terms for their operations.

Late last year, Apple announced it will enable ad-blocking on its operating system, effectively marking the end of digital ads not authorized by Apple on iPhones and iPads. As mobile ad space becomes more expensive—supply has always kept prices down.

Warren continued on page 6

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