DOJ Starts Review Of Whether Major Tech Companies Are Too Powerful

Updated at 6:43 p.m. ET

The Justice Department says it’s launching a wide-ranging antitrust review of big tech companies. The DOJ didn’t name specific firms in its announcement Tuesday but said its inquiry will consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online.”

It’s the first clear public confirmation of a major U.S. antitrust review of the tech industry. The DOJ examination promises to be the broadest and potentially toughest scrutiny of companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

The Justice Department said its antitrust division will study how major online platforms grew to have their big market power and whether they are acting in ways that have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”

The Federal Trade Commission and the DOJ have long been rumored to be studying the scale and reach of big tech firms. This follows fines and close inspection of U.S. tech companies by European antitrust authorities, including a new antitrust investigation into Amazon announced last week.

The DOJ said its antitrust division will collect information from the public, other companies and industry participants.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement. “The department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

Despite having very different business models, tech companies have together faced growing concerns both in Congress and on the campaign trail, particularly over the amount of information they collect about their users and other companies.

The House Judiciary Committee has launched its own investigation into tech companies’ scale and reach. Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have accused Facebook and Google of stifling conservative views. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has campaigned on the idea of breaking up big tech.

“I don’t think big is necessarily bad,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers at a hearing in January. “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. … I want to find out more about that dynamic.”

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