Justice Department Launches Antitrust Probe of Big Tech

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Justice Department announced Tuesday it is launching a wide-ranging antitrust probe into some of the nation’s largest tech companies, amid critiques from lawmakers of the power and influence of companies like Facebook and Google.

This photo combo of images shows the Amazon, Google and Facebook logos. (AP Photo)

“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, with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, said in a statement Tuesday. “The department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The department said the review will focus on the “competitive conditions” on the internet and will look at “how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.”

The Justice Department did not specifically identify on which companies its review will focus, offering only that it will look at consumer concerns about “search, social media and some retail services online.” The agency said if it finds legal violations, it will “proceed appropriately to seek redress.”

The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the investigation, reported the investigation announced Tuesday will run alongside a separate probe into Google – the existence of which the department has yet to confirm.

Conservatives have been critical recently of the power of social media companies and search giants like Google, accusing the industry of stifling conservative voices and viewpoints online. In a speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit on Tuesday, Trump said social media companies have not treated Republicans and conservatives fairly.

“A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people,” Trump said Tuesday, hours before the Justice Department announcement. “That is why I’ve asked my administration to explore every possible regulatory and legislative solution because you have to have free speech. You have to have free speech.”

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has been a particularly vocal critic of social media and large tech companies, introducing a bill last month that would change how the companies are regulated unless they can show the algorithms that support their products are not biased.

Hawley called the Justice Department’s antitrust probe “very big news and very important” in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, big tech has also faced criticism from the left. In March, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed a plan to break up Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power – too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy,” Warren wrote in a Medium post. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

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