San Francisco

Senator Elizabeth Warren caused a stir when she presented a plan to split up some of the world’s largest technology companies. But the proposal is getting a lukewarm response near the tech heartland of Silicon Valley.

Warren, who’s seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, called last week for the break-up of Alphabet Inc’s Google, Inc and Facebook Inc because of alleged monopolistic practices. At a rally for fellow Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang in San Francisco Friday night, some voters said they thought Warren is going too far.

“In general, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Malachi Griffie, a consultant for tech companies and former start-up founder, speaking after Yang’s rally. “I think it’s pushing the envelope to start a conversation about regulations. We need to divest tech companies of the power they have, but breaking them up may not be the solution.”

More than 1,000 people showed up to support Yang, dubbed the ‘internet candidate’ by some. The former entrepreneur has developed a relatively niche following because of his platform that touts the merits of universal basic income. He supports the US government giving citizens $1,000 each month, calling it a “Freedom Dividend”. Yang has called for more tech regulation, but has disagreed with Warren’s view that breaking up Big Tech will help smaller businesses.

Daniel Ayerzon, who runs a marketing and consulting business, expressed a similar opinion. “I appreciate Warren because it’s bold to stick your neck out there and go against big tech companies,” he said. “But that’s ultimately not going to fix our problems.”

Some attendees supported Warren’s plan, but cautioned that the pledge was difficult to execute and presented room for error.

Ivan Franco, a Bay Area resident who works for a biotech company, said he thought Warren’s idea was “a good first step,” but might be harder to do than it seems.

Intellectual treatment

Many of the attendees at Yang’s rally said that his focus on tempering income inequality could offer citizens more opportunities to become entrepreneurs and would address an ill that has polarised US society. Besides universal basic income, several voters said climate change ranked as their most important issue in the 2020 election.

“As a relatively young person, I feel pretty invested in the habitability of our earth going forward,” said Keshav Kini, a software engineer. Climate change “would cause massive suffering, especially in the developing world.”

Sravan Chalasani, an energy efficiency research associate in Berkeley, California, said that it was crucial that presidential candidates should support bringing the US back into the Paris Agreement, a global climate accord that President Donald Trump abandoned.

More than anything, Bay Area residents appeared to yearn for a more intellectual treatment of political issues. Each time Yang mentioned the word “numbers,” supporters chanted his name and waved campaign posters with the word “Math” written on one side. Yang promised a technocratic approach to the presidency, declaring he would be the first US head of state to give a PowerPoint presentation each year.