Instagram founder knocks down Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up big tech companies

  • Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger on Monday said politicians need to offer solutions that address the tech industry's specific problems instead of just talking about breaking up companies like Facebook.
  • Systrom and Krieger spoke at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. It was the pair's first joint public appearance since they resigned from Facebook in September.
  • Their comments come a few days after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for president, proposed breaking up big tech companies like Facebook.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, speaks during a panel discussion at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2019.
Callaghan O'Hare | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, speaks during a panel discussion at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Instagram Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger on Monday said politicians need to offer solutions that address the tech industry's specific problems instead of just talking about breaking up companies like Facebook.

"I think the conversation will go better and lead to better policy if we're really specific on the problems we're trying to solve," Krieger said at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

Their comments come days after presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a new plan to break up large tech companies like Facebook and Amazon. The pair were asked if they supported the proposal.

"Do we get our job back?" Systrom responded. "I'm joking. That was a joke." (Systrom and Krieger left Facebook-owned Instagram last year.)

Systrom said he was surprised that Warren's proposal was so wide sweeping.

"I think its going to take a more nuanced proposal," Systrom said. "But my fear is that a proposal to break up all tech is playing on everyone's current feeling of anti-tech rather than doing what politicians should do, which is address real problems and give real solutions."

In a statement, an aide for Warren reiterated aspects of the senators plan to break up big tech companies in response to Systrom's comments.

"Elizabeth Warren laid out exactly how Big Tech is smothering competition and put forward a simple and effective way to solve the problem. Here's how: Companies with revenue of $25 billion or more that offer an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform," the aide said. "Smaller companies would not be required to structurally separate but will have to meet a standard of fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. A Warren [administration] would also appoint regulators committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including the Facebook, WhatsApp [and] Instagram mergers."

Systrom and Krieger resigned suddenly from Instagram in September, six years after the company was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. Their appearance at SXSW was their first joint public appearance since leaving Facebook.

The two were asked what they are working on now, and said they have not committed themselves to anything but are currently taking meetings with entrepreneurs.

"I'm starting to get excited about ideas again," Krieger said.

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