U.S. moving toward major antitrust probe of tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

Diane Bartz and Jan Wolfe for Reuters:

The U.S. government is gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google misuse their massive market power, sources told Reuters on Monday, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which enforce antitrust laws in the United States, have divided oversight over the four companies, two sources said, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department.

With jurisdiction established, the next step is for the two federal agencies to decide if they want to open formal investigations. Results are not likely to be quick. A previous FTC probe of Google took more than two years.

MacDailyNews Take: And was a complete sham. (See: The FTC’s Missed Opportunity on Google, Bloomberg Editorial Board, January 3, 2013)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told Reuters that the business model of companies like Google and Facebook needs to be scrutinized. “It’s got so much power, and so unregulated,” he said. Another Republican, Senator Marsha Blackburn, said the panel would do what she called a “deeper dive” into big tech companies.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who said on Monday that U.S. enforcers have to do more than wring their hands about the companies’ clout, also weighed in.

“Their predatory power grabs demand strict & stiff investigation & antitrust action,” the Connecticut senator wrote on Twitter.

Separately, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened its own investigation into competition in digital markets, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concern about the power exercised by tech giants.

News broke on Friday that the Justice Department was laying the groundwork to investigate Google to determine whether the world’s biggest online advertising platform was using its size to squeeze out smaller competitors, violating laws designed to ensure fair competition.

MacDailyNews Take: The real problems where too much power is concentrated and the potential for abuse of their market power is greatest is clearly Google and Facebook.

Apple has nothing resembling a monopoly in any market in which they compete (PCs, smartphones, tablets, streaming music, ebooks, mobile apps, etc. etc. etc.), they only have a virtual monopoly on quality, well-heeled customers, because they’re smart. They skim the cream off the top, not race to the bottom, of the barrel.


  1. Monopoly is not the only anticompetitive behavior that antitrust laws protect us from.

    Apple has undue influence not only over 3rd party products, but consumers own devices.

    Oh, and iOS is a market unto itself.

        1. And iOS devices use the same power – fuel, the same networks – roads, the same Wi-fi and can visit everywhere on the worldwideweb just like competing brands.
          Still waiting…

  2. This is all a distraction by Trump. It’s to take people’s attention off the fact that the DOJ who is charged into looking at this topic is headed by a corrupt Barr who lied to the people and congress about the Mueller report. There is evidence to impeach Trump. The entire DOJ a wrecking ball for the rule of law. The tariffs for Mexico is another distraction for the people and markets.

    1. Apple has also contributed to Amazon’s ‘monopoly’ on eBooks by not providing Apps on other platforms on which to consume iBooks. On the flip side, Apple has a clear monopoly on iOS App distribution. No other peer company comes close to restricting suppliers(developers) from selling the exact same product elsewhere.

  3. Sorry, this is the same abuse of the Justice Department that we experienced under the Obama Administration. This is just revenge against bastions of liberal ideology. It’s the same thing that conservatives are always complaining that liberals do.

    1. I don’t have to use any of the companies and I can use the Internet just fine. In every case I choose to use these companies because they happen to do something or many things better than their competition. They are in effect excellent examples of how things are SUPPOSED to work.

  4. The fact that Apple only makes apps for its own platform does not constitute a monopoly or anti-trust issue. And there are definitely books being sold for Amazon Kindle that are a lot cheaper than in iBooks (I just bought one for Kindle because of that).

    Anti-trust issues can arise from a business advertising one thing but doing another. The challenge with Google and Facebook is that they have inconsistent standards for moderating content that strongly favors a political leaning that is getting them into trouble. If they said that they will favor liberal views over conservative ones and rank them higher, no problem. But the fact that they claim to be non-biased but aren’t in practice is a problem – particularly since they are such large platforms and can effectively shut down public expressions in significant ways.

    One example is with InfoWars (a site I have nothing to do with) when suddenly, Facebook, YouTube and Apple banned them all at virtually the same time.

    1. I do not believe anyone is arguing that there is a monopoly by Apple only making apps for its own platform. The issue of monopoly or anti-trust in Apple’s case is that 3rd party App developers have no other option to sell to iOS consumers nor customers to purchase iOS Apps except via Apple’s App Store.

      You will have to explain a bit more of how political bias is a basis for anti-trust if the opposing view is still being represented.

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