Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) pledged Tuesday to appoint an attorney general to lead the Department of Justice who would break up big tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google during a live event with the Washington Post.
“I think we need vigorous anti-trust legislation in this country,” Sanders told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa while taking a jab at Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Post and the founder of Amazon. “Whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it’s Wall Street, whether it is high tech, fewer and fewer gigantic corporations owning those sectors, and we need an attorney general, which, who I would appoint who understands anti-trust law. Who believes in competition, who would break up these huge corporations.”
At the event, Sanders specifically targeted the social media giant Facebook, which has been subject to staunch criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in recent years over its mishandling of user privacy. The company has also been chastised by conservatives over its censorship of speech.
“They determine who we communicate with. They have incredible power over the economy, over the political life of this country, in a very dangerous sense,” Sanders said at the Post’s D.C. headquarters.
Sanders also said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was too light in its punishment on Facebook for its mishandling of user data.
“Was the FTC settlement with Facebook enough?” Costa asked, referencing the commission’s decision last week to levy a $5 billion fine on the tech giant over its violation of user privacy laws, the largest fine that a federal agency has ever handed down to a tech company.
“No, obviously it was not,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ goal to break up tech companies falls in line with some of the senator’s colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) announced legislation aimed at breaking up tech giants with a focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in 1996, that provides protections for such companies.
Hawley’s bill, titled “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” removes protections given to tech companies under the act unless the corporations allow external audits of their algorithms to prove political neutrality.