Tech Giants Go Under Antitrust Microscope In Department Of Justice Review

From left, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg attend a 2016 White House meeting. Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

Makan Delrahim, the Donald Trump appointee at the U.S. Department of Justice, who heads the antitrust division and led the lawsuit seeking to block AT&T’s Time Warner acquisition, has a new target: tech giants.

Delrahim’s boss, Attorney General William Barr, has increased rhetoric questioning tech company methods in recent months, reflecting President Trump’s regular complaints about alleged bias and other behavior.

The DOJ plans to review companies including four of the FAANG companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google. The DOJ will be looking to see “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 agency said in a press release.

Among the areas of focus will be concerns that regulators say they have fielded from consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs about search, social media, and some online retail services.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Delrahim said. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

Business ramifications, including regulatory restriction or even breakups of the companies, could be the outcome of the probe, and shares in the major issues were all trading lower after hours on Tuesday. Many media companies have long complained about what they have labeled a “duopoly” in digital advertising, with Facebook and Google grabbing nearly 80 cents of every dollar in ad spending. Far tougher regulation of tech firms has also been a plank in the 2020 presidential platforms of many left-wing Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

The Federal Trade Commission is conducting its own review, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report on the DOJ probe.

Trump, a businessman who has championed the elimination of regulation across many industries during his presidency, has frequently railed against tech companies. Earlier this summer, the White House convened a “social media summit” that did not include representatives of any of the major platforms, including Google-owned YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

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