Taking a page out of the book of Progressive Era reformers, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is going after what she sees as the 21st century version of “trusts” — tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

The Democratic presidential candidate pledged in a Medium post that a Warren administration would make “big, structural changes” to the big tech companies, claiming they have “ too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.”

“To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies,” she said.

Citing the tradition of Progressive Era reforms, Warren said she would restore competition to the tech sector by passing legislation that requires the tech giants’ platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and prohibiting them from owning any participant on that platform.

She would also appoint regulators who are committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Facebook’s purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram.

The Washington Post said Warren’s plan “marks the most ambitious and aggressive effort targeting the tech industry offered by any Democratic contender for the White House” and “illustrates the tech industry’s political fall from grace.”

“Not only is the honeymoon over, but they’re in divorce court,” Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, an industry think tank, said of the apparent split between Democrats and Silicon Valley.

Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy counsel at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, agreed with Warren that legislation is needed to ensure “a real opportunity for new, innovative competitors to succeed.”

“In some cases, structural separation like Sen. Warren’s plan may be warranted,” she told USA Today.

But Jessica Melugin, associate director of the center for technology and innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group, said Warren had failed to recognize that “The next wave of technological innovations will likely require enormous economies of scale to serve consumers.”

Image: Flikr/Matt Johnson

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