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Justice Department opens probe of big tech companies over competition harm

David McLaughlin, Bloomberg News on

Published in Science & Technology News

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said it's investigating whether technology giants are harming competition, stepping up its scrutiny of the industry's biggest companies.

The department's antitrust division will look at concerns that consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and online retail, according to a statement Tuesday.

"Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands," said Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division. "The department's antitrust review will explore these important issues."

Shares of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Google parent Alphabet Inc. fell more than 1% in extended trading. Apple Inc. was down 0.5% around 5:11 p.m. EDT.

The announcement marks the latest sign of the heightening scrutiny facing tech companies in Washington by lawmakers and antitrust enforcers. The giants of the industry are under fire over massive collection of user data, failing to police content on their platforms, and claims that are harming competition in their markets.

Last week, executives from Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. were grilled by the House antitrust panel, which is investigating whether dominant companies are thwarting competition and harming innovation.

On Tuesday, the chairman of that committee, Democrat David Cicilline of Rhode Island, sent follow-up questions to Facebook, Amazon and Google, saying he was "deeply troubled" by the companies' "evasive, incomplete or misleading answers."

 

The Justice Department move comes after the antitrust division and the FTC took early steps toward investigating four of the biggest tech companies, with the Justice Department taking oversight of Google and Apple and the FTC getting Facebook and Amazon.

Last year the FTC formed a tech task force to examine conduct by companies and past deals in the industry. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported on the Justice Department's announcement.

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