Elon Musk: 'Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong'

Elon Musk calls for break-up of space rival Jeff Bezos' Amazon in row over a book on coronavirus lockdowns.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Just three days after Elon Musk told his 35 million Twitter followers he would be "off Twitter for a while", the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla has used the platform to call for Amazon to be broken up by regulators. 

"Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong," Musk wrote in a tweet directed at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson. 

Musk posted the comment in response to a tweet from Berenson – a critic of the government response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – who claimed Amazon had blocked the sale of the first installment of his new book, Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns.

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An email to Berenson, purportedly from Amazon's Kindle publishing unit, stated that the book didn't comply with the company's guidelines. It didn't state a reason but suggested it related to Amazon's policies on information about the coronavirus pandemic. 

Musk said the decision to block the book was "insane". 

However, following Musk's tweets, Amazon decided to allow the book to be sold on the site. Berenson posted another email from an Amazon official stating, "We have now published your book and it should be available on the website in the next few hours".  

Amazon told Reuters Berenson's book was blocked in error

Among other things, the book questions whether lockdowns and wearing masks help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, as well as what Berenson says is the media's "panicked reporting" of the pandemic. He's also critical of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting on infections and deaths due to COVID-19.    

While Amazon doesn't compete with Tesla or SpaceX directly, Musk and Bezos are longtime foes in the space industry. Bezos has Blue Origin and Project Kuiper, Bezos' satellite broadband rival to SpaceX's Starlink service, which Musk has said will reach a public beta as early as August

But only Bezos' company, Amazon, has been the subject of big tech antitrust probes by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice (DoJ). Republican Senator Josh Hawley in April called on the DoJ to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon due to alleged predatory practices.   

Both companies have come under fire over their handling of restrictions throughout the pandemic. Tim Bray, a VP and distinguished engineer at Amazon's highly profitable cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS), quit his high-paying role in May because Amazon fired several employees who had publicly criticized conditions for workers at Amazon's distribution centers.

Musk has been a vocal critic of lockdowns in the US that have affected his companies. In March, he told SpaceX employees that they're more likely to die in a car crash than from COVID-19

Tesla in May also sued Alameda County for ordering Tesla's Fremont, California, factory to be closed since mid-March as part of the county's social-distancing measures. Musk threatened to move Tesla's headquarters and future projects to Texas.   

Tesla warned in its Q1 2020 earnings report that suspended operations at its Fremont Factory and its Gigafactories in New York and Nevada may cause delays to new vehicle deliveries in the current quarter.

SEE: New SpaceX launch: Starlink closes in on 800 internet-beaming satellite target for US service

But the lockdowns haven't stopped SpaceX from expanding its constellation of internet-beaming Starlink satellites. Since coronavirus lockdowns began in the US, SpaceX has launched three 60-satellite payloads. The latest, which launched this week, brought its constellation to around 480, and SpaceX last week asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to launch 30,000 more second generation satellites. 

Bezos' satellite broadband Project Kuiper hasn't launched any satellites to date and didn't apply to the FCC for an expansion for its program beyond it's currently approved 3,200 satellites. 

OneWeb, another satellite internet company, asked the FCC to approve nearly 48,000 more satellites despite the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after failing to secure funding due to the impact coronavirus had on financial markets.   

As reported by Geekwire in January, Amazon's Kuiper subsidiary asked the FCC to expedite approval to launch and operate the Kuiper satellites. 

SpaceX and Kuiper are fighting over Ka-band spectrum. SpaceX has argued that sharing spectrum with Kuiper would degrade the Starlink service, while Bezos' project said his satellites would have no material impact on existing licensees.

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