Big Tech ‘monopolies’ targeted in sweeping new antitrust probe by US Justice Department

23 Jul, 2019 23:17 / Updated 5 years ago

The US Department of Justice is investigating whether Silicon Valley tech giants unlawfully stifled competition in their rise to power, adding to the legal headaches of companies like Google, already under the microscope.

In probing how Big Tech players grew and solidified their grip on their respective markets under the nose of regulators, the DOJ will also look at how they’ve extended tentacles into other businesses and how they’ve leveraged their massive user bases to exert their power, according to sources cited in the Wall Street Journal.

While the initial focus is broad and aimed at merely determining whether or not antitrust issues exist, the inquiry could broaden if company conduct violating other laws is uncovered, they said.

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While the DOJ has not publicly singled out any of the usual Big Tech suspects, it mentioned “search, social media, and some retail services online” in a press statement emailed to NBC on Tuesday, which confirmed the agency was probing how dominant platforms “have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”

Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Assistant Attorney General Makin Delrahim of the Antitrust Division said in the statement.

Facebook, Amazon, and stock of Google’s parent company Alphabet, all dropped over 1 percent following the publication of the report, and Apple’s stock also dipped.

The investigation will work closely with Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, according to department sources, and appears to have already got underway: the DOJ has already hosted a private presentation from Facebook critics sharing their concerns about the social media behemoth, some of whom suggested it be broken up.

This inquiry is separate from the sprawling Big Tech probe launched last month in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, which saw the DOJ targeting Google and Apple while the FTC agreed to take on Facebook and Amazon.

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Facebook agreed earlier this month to pay a $5 billion penalty to the FTC for violating a previous agreement to respect its users’ privacy, while Google settled a class action lawsuit alleging privacy violations in data collection for its Street View project for $13 million this week.

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