Andrew Yang says breaking up big tech won't solve 'fundamental problems' of social media

Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang's wife, Evelyn Yang, calls for 'big structural change' at 4th annual Women's March DNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE warned Tuesday that breaking up big tech companies, an idea that has drawn support from fellow 2020 contenders, wouldn’t address the fundamental problems of social media.

Yang said during an interview with “Rising” that dismantling tech giants like Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, wouldn’t fix the negative effect they're having on teenagers and young people. He added that breaking up major tech firms is a “20th century solution to 21st century problems.”

“Competition would not address some of the fundamental problems like if you look at Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp,” he said.

Lawmakers have launched an antitrust investigation in the House while the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice are reportedly preparing for their own probes into the companies' potentially anticompetitive practices.

Yang acknowledged that while it would make sense for tech giants to divest certain parts of their businesses, he believes that "one of the fundamental problems is that our social media apps are causing higher levels of depression, anxiety among teenagers and breaking up the apps into separate companies does nothing to change that." 

Yang has proposed creating what he calls an “attention economy” department that would focus specifically on how to design and use social media apps more responsibly. This would include age restrictions and guidelines on chat and gaming apps.

“There needs to be some kind of counter weight that looks out for our kids,” he said, referring to the plan.

A number of Democratic contenders have introduced proposals to break up big tech or at least expressed support for taking a serious look into the issue.

In March, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE (D-Mass.) became the first major 2020 Democratic hopeful to call for breaking up companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Warren has outlined her two-part plan to crack down on internet giants. The first approach includes passing legislation that would bar certain companies from owning any entity that participates on its platform, and the other part would call for nominating officials to unwind anticompetitive mergers like Amazon that have been approved by regulators.

"To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies," Warren said in a Medium post detailing the proposal. 

—Tess Bonn