But the desire to use antitrust law against popular tech companies isn’t likely to go anywhere. In recent months, Republicans and Democrats have both been itching to flex their regulatory muscle against the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon.
In October, 11 state attorneys general—all Republicans—and the Department of Justice filed a civil suit against Google, accusing the internet search giant of maintaining a digital search and ad monopoly “through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices,” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. But the lawsuit fails to explain either how Google’s practices amount to anything other than normal business deals or how consumers are being harmed.
The bar for showing consumer harm “is unlikely to be met,” said Jessica Melugin, associate director of Center for Technology and Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a statement about the lawsuit. That’s “why so many antitrust enthusiasts are calling for a fundamental rewriting and expansion of U.S. antitrust laws. Those proposed changes sacrifice the primacy of consumer welfare and insert competitors and broader socioeconomic goals in its place.”
This impetus was on full display in a fall report from the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. After a 16-month investigation into the big four tech companies, it seems the most that congressional busybodies can accuse them of is routine business practices and having popular services. But while the 450-page report, issued in October, offers scant evidence of these companies violating current federal law, it’s full of calls to change the law so tech company actions will fall under federal purview.
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