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Business Review Board / Sep. 10, 2019

The Expanding Antitrust Probe of Big Tech

Social-media giants are on notice as 50 attorneys general take on Google.

In July, the Justice Department announced an antitrust probe into America’s biggest tech companies. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, explained that the broad and sweeping investigation would seek to determine whether tech giants have engaged in monopolistic practices that have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” That probe is now growing to include attorneys general across the nation.

Variety reported last week, “Facebook faces another antitrust investigation, with the New York State Attorney General announcing Friday that a coalition of nine AGs has launched an investigation into the social-media giant for potential antitrust violations.”

And The Washington Post reports this week, “Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories on Monday officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a tech giant that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton explained that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet.”

Back in January, Attorney General William Barr expressed concerns over Big Tech’s rapid growth when he told lawmakers, “I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers. You can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic.” Barr and state attorneys general are seeking to answer these questions.

Criticism of Big Tech has become a uniquely bipartisan issue in this era of heightened partisanship. However, the reasoning behind that criticism is not uniform. Conservatives accuse Big Tech of free-speech infringement specifically related to the censorship practices against conservative social-media figures. Leftists like anti-corporate socialist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), on the other hand, call for tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google to be broken up simply for being too big.

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