After a bold pledge to “break up” and regulate monolithic tech companies like Google and Facebook, Sen. Elizabeth Warren came to, uh, the country’s preeminent tech conference to state her case.
Appearing in conversation at SXSW on Saturday, the presidential hopeful was immediately asked to address a regulatory proposal she floated at a rally the night before in New York — one that would seek to undo massive mergers and introduce legislation that would prohibit marketplace owners from developing product to sell on their own platforms.
“The whole idea behind this is actually for people who are tech entrepreneurs,” Warren told moderator and Time magazine contributor Anand Giridharadas. The latter asked any members in the audience at the Austin City Limits Moody Theater who worked for big tech to stand, so Warren could address them directly.
She laid out her argument with an analogy about a user buying a coffeemaker via Amazon.
“Amazon has a platform to sell you a coffee maker, but that company also sucks out an incredible amount of information about every buyer and seller. Then they can make a decision to go start a competing coffee making-selling outfit, and drive out of business everyone else in that space,” Warren said.
Warren emphasized the important of preserving the integrity of the fledgling entrepreneur and small business owners. Giridharadas argued that this would cripple moguls like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“This only affects tech monopolists. Less monopoly profits? Boo hoo,” she said.
The wide-ranging chat hit several other pressure points, like Giridharadas raising a rumor that Warren’s colleague Bernie Sanders contacted her prior to her campaign announcement and asked her to forgo a run in deference to the democratic party.
“Bernie and I had a private dinner and my view is that dinner stays private,” Warren said.
There was some levity, on brand with the edgy Austin-based festival. A lightning round of questions revealed some fun facts about Warren, such as:
She reads two books a week, mostly audiobooks, and not all high-art (the “Victor the Assassin” book series is a favorite).
Her luxury splurge is high end moisturizer.
Her favorite drink is Michelob Ultra, “the club soda of beers.”
Her favorite binge TV was “The Wire.” Her favorite character was Omar.
Warren formally announced her candidacy in early February, following months of speculation about the wide field of democrats who will take on President Trump in 2020.