The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it was opening a broad investigation of major digital technology firms into whether they engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech.
The review will look into “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The Justice Department did not identify specific companies but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” — an apparent reference to Alphabet Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc, and potentially Apple Inc.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said the Justice Department “must now be bold and fearless in stopping Big Tech’s misuse of its monopolistic power. Too long absent and apathetic, enforcers now must prevent privacy abuse, anticompetitive tactics, innovation roadblocks, and other hallmarks of excessive market power.”
In June, Reuters reported the Trump administration was gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google misuse their massive market power, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies.
The Justice Department said the review “is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want.”
“There is growing consensus among venture capitalists and startups that there is a kill zone around Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple that prevents new startups from entering the market with innovative products and services to challenge these incumbents,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat who heads the subcommittee.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, praised the investigation and said a Senate tech task force she chairs would be looking at how to “foster free markets and competition.”
It’s good to hear that the arguments are not only founded on product pricing but are much more wider ranging and address what exactly makes a monopoly.