AUSTIN, Texas -- South by Southwest (SXSW) may be one of the largest music and tech conferences in the country, but this past weekend it became a major political hotspot.
At least six Democratic 2020 presidential candidates visited the conference this past weekend to appeal to millennials -- and take aim at major tech companies like Google and Amazon.
The 2020 hopefuls tackled issues like climate change, socialism, and the Green New Deal at the conference, but the future of technology emerged as a key part of the conversation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) addressed numerous instances of privacy breaches and even suggested possibly taxing companies for sharing data without users’ permission.
Facebook is currently under fire for several scandals involving data and privacy breaches, potentially compromising millions of user accounts.
“For so long, these companies have said we’ve got your back, and that’s just not true. The first thing we do is privacy legislation. I have a bipartisan bill to do that with notice of breach,” said Klobuchar.
Klobuchar emphasized cracking down on monopolies, too, but shied away from giving a definitive answer when asked by Recode’s Kara Swisher on whether companies like Facebook or Google should be broken up.
“I would want to have it investigated. That is how I do things. I don’t just come in, break this up, break that up. We just have not had adequate investigation,” said Klobuchar.
Neither Amazon or Google have responded to phone calls from Fox News seeking comment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, has recently proposed breaking up big tech companies like Google and Amazon.
“It’s a little like baseball. You can be an umpire or you can own teams. But, you can’t be an umpire and own one of the teams that’s in the game. I’m deeply concerned that the space around companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google is now referred to by venture capitalists as the ‘kill zone’,” said Warren.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro acknowledged Warren’s proposal saying “Is it worth considering that kind of proposal? Sure. I agree we have to be much stronger in terms of our antitrust examination and enforcement.”
Castro added that more should be asked of “people at the top and wealthy corporations.”
“I don’t understand how Amazon made over $11 billion in profit last year, and they paid $0 in federal taxes. At the same time, New York was about to offer them a $3 billion package, including half a billion dollars in direct incentives to locate their second headquarters in New York,” said Castro.
But, Tim O’Reilly, a tech expert and founder of O’Reilly Media, is wary of Congress rolling out new regulation laws without them first learning about the way these companies work. He said lawmakers must be informed before implementing new legislation.
“Before we even start talking about solutions, like break up or any particular regulation, do we understand? I think in many cases, they are going to get regulated. And their goal should be to regulate the right way by bringing expertise to the table,” said O’Reilly.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was also at the event and slammed political moderates, calling their views “misplaced” as she defended her progressive politics in a room full of supporters.