The U.S. Justice Department is finally set to begin its long-rumoured review of monopoly concerns in the areas of online search, ecommerce and social media, specifically targeting big tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. An exceptionally broad probe, the agency announced Wednesday it would seek to learn if such companies had “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department Of Justice (DOJ), which both possess antitrust powers, have been prepping for action against these mega-corporations for months, divvying up which agency would pursue which tech giant.
Some of the companies being probed by the DOJ, like Amazon, were initially believed to fall under the purview of the FTC alone, lending heightened seriousness to the review. The full extent of actions from either agency, however, remains largely open-ended, and it’s possible both agencies may pursue separate probes into the same companies.
News of the DOJ’s move comes less than two weeks after the FTC fined Facebook $US5 ($7) billion over its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal — a wrist slap U.S. politicians found woefully inadequate — and hours after the Washington Post reported the agency had approved unprecedented oversight measures over Facebook’s privacy policies.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ has already held closed-door hearings to receive testimony from critics of Facebook.
“If violations of law are identified,” the DOJ wrote, “the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress,” which would include issues outside the scope of antitrust that are nonetheless discovered during the process of their research.
Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook stocks all took a dip on release of the news and, if you listen closely with your ear towards the U.S. West coast, you can hear the sound of a thousand buttholes clenching.