Battle of the billionaires: Elon Musk calls for Amazon to be broken up

SpaceX CEO labels Amazon a monopoly following Covid-19 eBook brouhaha


On Tuesday, Elon Musk announced that he would be “Off Twitter for a while.” In recent weeks, the CEO of Tesla (TESL) and SpaceX found himself the centre of a series of social media controversies, from doubting the official narrative of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, to tweeting that he thought his own carmaker’s stock was too high.

This self-imposed exile lasted all but two days, however. On Thursday night, Musk stated: “Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!”

Musk’s provocative statement came after Alex Berenson, a former reporter for the New York Times, expressed his frustration that Amazon (AMZN) had stopped offering his book Unreported truths about Covid-19 and lockdowns for sale on its platform.

Before the pandemic, the author was best known for Tell your children, which highlighted the link between early cannabis use and mental illness.

An official Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) content review informed Berenson: “Your book does not comply with our guidelines. As a result, we are not offering your book for sale.”

When the author aired his grievance in public and accused Amazon of unfair censorship, Musk lent his support, tweeting: “This is insane.”

Within hours the sceptical assessment of the current lockdown strategies imposed by governments across the world was back on sale. Berenson thanked Musk and all the others who had sprung to his defence.

While the immediate upset may now have calmed down, that such a prominent American business figure came out to condemn Amazon only underlines the increasing anxiety felt over the company’s ever increasing dominance.

In 2019, Amazon became the fifth largest company in America by revenue and the thirteenth globally. Having started the company in 1994 as an ecommerce firm specialising in book deliveries, CEO Jeff Bezos has grown Amazon into an ecommerce behemoth. With a net worth of $116bn (£91bn, €102bn), Bezos is now the richest man in the world.

The diversification and sheer dominance of Amazon’s business interests have provoked a number of concerns. By 2020 its interests range from cloud computing and artificial intelligence to consumer electronics, grocery stores, streaming services and film production.

To investigate the dominance of the likes of Amazon, Facebook (FB) and Alphabet (GOOGL), the US Department of Justice last year launched a broad antitrust review of the nation’s Big Tech firms.

The Chairman of the House Antitrust Sub committee, congressman David Cicilline, revealed in March, that Jeff Bezos was “the only CEO who has expressed reservations about appearing” before his committee.

Only time will tell whether Musk’s outburst is a flash in the pan, or an indication that the already thin goodwill towards Amazon from other American business leaders has reached a breaking point.

FURTHER READING: SpaceX completes historic mission of launching humans into orbit

FURTHER READING: Jeff Bezos invests in British tech logistics start-up Beacon

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