Big Tech Firms Targeted By US Justice Department Over Antitrust Issues

There has been growing criticism of the increasing reach and power of major tech companies in the United States and elsewhere which has prompted the US justice department to initiate a broad antitrust review of such firms.

The major focus of the antitrust probe would be based on increasing complaints that competition is being illegally stifled by these large US based tech companies.

“The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” added the assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim, of the antitrust division.

A number of the largest online platforms would be included in the ambit of the review or investigation that would include names such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon and Apple.

US lawmakers – which includes the likes of Democratic presidential candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, have been calling for greater scrutiny of the companies which has prompted this investigation.

The House subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law grilled executives of Facebook, Google, and Amazon last week over issues related to their dominant position in the market which includes areas such as e-commerce, cloud computing and digital advertising.

Amazopn executives were grilled by law makers about the business policy of the company of levying fees against third-party sellers on its platform and questioned whether this practice results in a situation of monopoly of power in favor of the company. On the other hand, lawmakers asked Facebook executives about its business policy of targeting for acquisition a number of startups and copying features of companies which do not conceded to be acquired.

Additionally, Facebook was also questioned by lawmakers last month over the plans of the company to launch its own global cryptocurrency, called Libra. During the hearing, Facebook was accused by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio of showing “breathtaking arrogance” in its attempt to launch a digital financial service even after it faced a series of major privacy scandals.

In the case of the huge data breach of a huge number of US Facebook account holders in the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, the largest social media platform was slapped a fine of $5bn by the Federal Trade Commission in July.

Likening the company to a toddler playing with matches, Brown said, that “Facebook is dangerous.”

“It has burned the house down repeatedly and called every attempt a learning experience. Do you really think people should trust you with their bank accounts and their money?” he said.

According to a recently published news report by the Wall Street Journal, the investigation by the Department of Justice has already started. A private presentation from critics of big technology companies was hosted by the department wherein the concerns and arguments for breaking up the firms was presented to the legislators.

There has so far been no comments available on the probe news from Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Apple.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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