States Join Ranks to Open Antitrust Investigation Into Big Tech
“After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is critical that Congress step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or whether we need new legislation to respond to this challenge.”
Multiple states are moving forward in a joint antitrust investigation of “big tech” companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. The move places the tech industry in further hot water as the joint state investigation comes on top of the Justice Department (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) own federal antitrust investigation, which Citizen Truth reported on last June.
While little detail is known about the new state investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, a formal announcement and investigation by more than a dozen states could come anytime in the next few weeks.
The Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said in a statement last week that the department is working with several states’ attorneys general to investigate whether these tech companies are restricting the industry’s competition.
DOJ’s Antitrust Chief’s Comments Conflict with House Democrats’ Views Expressed in Previous Months
When reporters asked Delrahim whether Congress should revise its antitrust laws to more adequately regulate tech companies, he replied, “I don’t think so at this time. I think the laws we have are quite flexible. I think we just have to have proper, timely and aggressive enforcement of the antitrust laws.”
Delrahim’s remarks, however, conflict with some of the recent comments Democrats in the House of Representatives made. The House Judiciary Committee’s panel on antitrust began an investigation of prominent tech companies earlier in the year with the goal of pinpointing how updating the current tech laws could better regulate the tech industry.
During that time, House Judiciary antitrust chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) said in a statement: “After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is critical that Congress step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or whether we need new legislation to respond to this challenge.”
So Far, Little Information Has Surfaced Regarding the Investigations
Since the DOJ announced its probe of big tech companies earlier this summer, little information is known about what the department is investigating. According to Delrahim, the DOJ is still gathering documents.
He suggested that it “might be issuing compulsory process on some third parties who may or may not need it,” as The Verge reported.
Further, Delrahim mentioned Republicans’ recent apprehension regarding tech platforms’ alleged conservative bias, and he speculated whether antitrust law could help address those concerns.
Delrahim said to reporters: “It depends if it’s a competition question. If you have more competition, consumers may have different outlets to go to when a particular quality of a company may not be to their liking.”
Some Investigations Could Be Finished as Early as Next Year
Some of the ongoing investigations could conclude earlier than others.
According to FTC chair Joe Simons, the FTC’s antitrust probe of Facebook could be finished as early as next year. “Any significant case that I’m trying to emphasize,” Simons told multiple sources, as The Verge reported, “I would want to be out before the election.”