The United States Finally Takes on Big Tech

Posted on June 4, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Apple, Cloud, Google, Mobile, Music + Videos, Social with 36 Comments

Image credit: Paul Thurrott

No, it’s not just Google. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are also under scrutiny by the U.S. government now, and each could face sweeping antitrust charges.

It’s about time.

The U.S. House of Representatives informed Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google that it is investigating antitrust violation by each company. And if that wrongdoing is found—which it will be— it will instruct the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch formal antitrust investigations that will lead to fines and behavioral remedies. The DOJ will examine Apple and Google, while the FTC will tackle Amazon and Facebook.

At issue is a growing concern, suddenly explosive, that these corporations are abusing their market power, spreading disinformation, violating user privacy, and more. And this has support on both sides of the aisle, with various politicians from both major parties making Big Tech reform a major part of their platforms.

“This is about how do we get competition back in this space,” said Rhode Island representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust. He says he will subpoena executives and documentation from each firm and plans to record testimonies and hold hearings for each.

“As tech has expanded its market share, more and more questions have arisen about whether the market remains competitive,” Georgia representative Doug Collins agreed. Collins is a Republican, while Cicilline is a Democrat.

Formal antitrust action could take years, but as we’ve already seen, even the threat of federal oversight has already had an impact. On Monday, Apple quietly reversed its market abusing banning of third-party digital wellness apps on iOS after being informed of the House’s plans. And none of these companies wants to be brought down like Microsoft was by its antitrust issues of the early 2000s. Microsoft’s hobbling by antitrust regulators in the U.S. and EU is what led to the rise of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google in the first place.

And the EU is already racing ahead to curb these giants, too. Google has been found guilty of violating EU antitrust laws three times already and has weathered massive fines and behavioral remedies. And Apple is now under investigation for abusing its App Store monopoly there as well.

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