The U.S. Justice Department has announced a major antitrust investigation into unnamed tech giants, while the House Judiciary Committee has begun an unprecedented antitrust probe into Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple over their aggressive business practices, and promises “a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms.”
In addition, at least two 2020 presidential hopefuls have expressed support for breaking up some of technology’s biggest players amid concerns they have become too powerful.
Experts say breakups are unlikely in the short term, and Rep. David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the subcommittee pursuing the House investigation, called such measures a “last resort.” But even without that, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple could face new restrictions on their power.
Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple declined to comment on the investigations.
Here’s a look at the cases that could be brought against them and what their defenses could be.
With 2.4 billion users, $56 billion in revenue last year and a name that’s synonymous with social media, Facebook is certainly big. But is it an illegal, competition-crushing monopoly?
Federal regulators are already investigating the company’s privacy practices. But the antitrust question has been rumbling in the background, with critics calling for spinning off WhatsApp and Instagram. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has called for breaking up Big Tech, as has Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said that he is open to the idea.
Critics believe a breakup is needed because Facebook can squash competitors either by buying them or using its enormous resources to mimic services they offer — as it’s done with Snapchat, for example.
Facebook executives have been calling broadly for regulation, though nothing that comes close to breaking it up. In a recent statement, the company’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said Facebook “accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.” CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called for “new rules” in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
Facebook has also stressed that it has competitors in messaging and digital communication, including Apple and Google.
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Techlife News #404