Antitrust investigations of Facebook et al.

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John F
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Antitrust investigations of Facebook et al.

Post by John F » Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:40 pm

Justice Department Opens Antitrust Review of Big Tech Companies
By Daisuke Wakabayashi, Katie Benner and Steve Lohr
July 23, 2019

The federal government has turned its full investigative powers toward examining the world’s biggest technology companies, building on a backlash against the industry that has been growing for over a year. The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it would start an antitrust review into how internet giants had accumulated market power and whether they had acted to reduce competition. Similar inquiries are underway in Congress and at the Federal Trade Commission, which shares antitrust oversight responsibilities with the Justice Department.

The action is the clearest sign yet that the longtime arguments that helped shield the tech giants from antitrust scrutiny are eroding. Since the 1970s, a consensus in antitrust circles has been that if companies were focused on consumer welfare — for example, by offering low prices — they were not likely to attract federal intervention. Since companies like Google and Facebook largely provide free services, the thinking went, they were not subject to federal antitrust examination.

But that approach has evolved, pushed by scholars and others, as concerns about the clout and reach of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have grown. The Justice Department has recently been meeting with tech industry experts to learn what kinds of harm the companies may have caused, said two people with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on the condition they not be identified because the meetings were confidential.

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

Attorney General William P. Barr himself has plunged into the conversation about tech power. On Tuesday, he said in a speech in Manhattan that tech companies should stop using advanced encryption and other security measures that effectively turn devices into “law-free zones,” essentially criticizing Apple and its iPhones without naming them.

In announcing its review, the Justice Department did not name specific companies, but said it would look into concerns about search, social media and some retail services — presumably putting Google, Facebook and Amazon on notice.

The Justice Department declined to comment beyond its announcement; Google and Facebook also declined to comment. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Apple referred to comments made by Timothy D. Cook, its chief executive, in a recent television interview with CBS News. “I think we should be scrutinized,” Mr. Cook said at the time. “But if you look at any kind of measure about ‘is Apple a monopoly or not,’ I don’t think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly.”.. ... ule=inline
John Francis

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