Pattern Matching

How ‘Breaking Up’ Apple and Amazon Might Actually Work

A banking law from 1956 offers a realistic model for regulating dominant internet platforms

Will Oremus
Published in
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8 min readAug 29, 2020


Photo: Pool/Getty Images

Welcome back to Pattern Matching, OneZero’s weekly newsletter that puts the week’s most compelling tech stories in context.

“Break up Big Tech” has become a rallying cry for some, especially on the left, who see the largest tech companies’ power as a threat to innovation, small business, and perhaps even democracy. The call made headlines last year when Elizabeth Warren, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, outlined an aggressive plan to do just that. And it drew fresh attention with last month’s widely publicized antitrust hearing, which featured the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. I wrote at the time about the parallels (and differences) between that hearing and the Big Tobacco hearings of the 1990s.

Along the way, more moderate critics of the technology industry, along with its defenders, have tried to pump the brakes on the breakup train. “Breaking up big tech companies is the nuclear option,” Jeff Bercovici argued in Inc last year, in response to Warren’s proposal. “Why not try fixing what’s broken before pushing the button?” In January, a…