Antitrust: Investigating the tech giants
Federal regulators and lawmakers in Washington turned up the heat on Big Tech this week, said Brent Kendall and John McKinnon in The Wall Street Journal. “After years when the government took a broadly laissez-faire attitude toward the regulation of Silicon Valley,” the Justice Department is gearing up for an investigation into anticompetitive activity by Google, while the Federal Trade Commission is intensifying its scrutiny of Facebook. The two agencies also reached an agreement to divide jurisdiction over future probes into Apple and Amazon. “Separately, the House Judiciary Committee made public its own investigation” into the behavior of the four biggest “gatekeepers” in tech.
“If any of the tech giants are found guilty of anticompetitive behavior,” said Martin Giles in the MIT Technology Review, “they’re likely to be hit with heavy fines and other sanctions.” Trying to force a breakup will be tough. For one thing, “U.S. antitrust law focuses primarily on whether a monopolist has harmed consumers” through price gouging, and most of these services are free. Remember, in the 1990s, the DOJ failed to stop Microsoft from forcing its web browser onto Windows. “But the bruising court battles harmed the company’s reputation and curbed its anticompetitive instincts.” History could repeat itself. ■