The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has initiated a sweeping antitrust investigation of big technology companies, like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The DOJ is investigating whether the companies’ online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers. The DOJ said, “If violations of law are identified, the department will proceed appropriately to seek redress.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established its own watchdog to investigate big technology companies earlier this year. The two agencies share antitrust enforcement authority. Now, some of those companies could face antitrust claims from both the DOJ and the FTC.
Antitrust law generally prohibits corporations from abusing monopoly power to harm consumers. The law also prohibits companies from conspiring to fix prices or suppress competition through other anti-competitive activity. The DOJ said in a statement that it will investigate “the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want.”
The agencies will examine the practices of online platforms that dominate internet search, social media and retail services. The DOJ said in its statement that it would look into “widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media and some retail services online.” The agency did not name specific companies in its announcement, but shares of Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon fell in extended trading after the release of the news.
The big tech companies have come under intense scrutiny following a series of scandals that compromised users’ privacy. U.S. President Donald Trump and other top Republicans have also repeatedly complained that companies such as Facebook and Google are biased against conservative politicians. A growing number of lawmakers are calling for stricter regulation or even breaking up the big tech companies.