On Capitol Hill yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a Democratic frontrunner, told Politico that he supports his colleague and presidential competitor Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) calls to break up Facebook. When asked about her proposal for antitrust action against the social media company, Sanders said, “The answer is yes of course.”
“We have a monopolistic— an increasingly monopolistic society where you have a handful of very large corporations having much too much power over consumers,” Sanders continued.
Last week, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for the company he helped build, alongside CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to be broken up. It’s an idea pushed into the mainstream presidential policy discussion by Warren, and now other Democratic contenders are being forced to respond to her proposal in light of the Hughes’ remarks.
Sanders, along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), are so far the only two Democratic primary members to come out in full support of Warren’s break-up proposal.
Former vice president Joe Biden has been leading the Democratic pack, and he made headlines earlier this week in an interview with The Associated Press, saying that a breakup was “something we should take a really hard look at,” but it was “premature” to fully endorse such a measure.
Biden’s comments are similar to those made by other candidates on the campaign trail. Over the weekend, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) criticized Warren’s proposal, telling ABC News, “I don’t think that a president should be running around, pointing at companies and saying breaking them up without any kind of process here.”
Booker has been a loud voice against corporate consolidation for years, opposing agricultural and pharmaceutical mergers throughout his tenure as a senator. But when prompted to explain his stance on applying antitrust law against Silicon Valley companies specifically, he falls back on this history with other industries.
Others, like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), have voiced interest in a breakup in interviews and at town halls, but they have held out from overtly supporting such a move. Empowering regulators and law enforcement agencies has been a more popular position among more moderate candidates.
In a CNN Town Hall last month, Pete Buttigieg said that, if elected president, he would work to empower the Federal Trade Commission to better attack tech monopolies. Klobuchar and Booker have also supported similar policies.