The House Judiciary Committee announced on Monday that it would launch an antitrust investigation into big technology like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also announced their own investigation into these companies.

The fact is these companies gained their success from the market. They are market-driven monopolies.

The United States implemented antitrust laws to target companies that practice unethical business practices to put the competition out of business and then absorb said competition.

House Judiciary Committee

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Monday that “[T]he era of self-regulation is over.”

That statement should scare everyone to their core.

From USA Today:

“The growth of monopoly power across our economy is one of the most pressing economic and political challenges we face today,” Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs the panel’s antitrust subcommittee, said in a statement.

“After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is vital for Congress to step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or if we need new legislation,” Cicilline said,

Cicilline promised “depositions, public hearings, and document requests.” He even said that citizens “seem to have forgotten that there’s a reason that we have the antitrust statute.”

Cicilline also wants to target “Google and Facebook’s massive shares of digital ad spending, which has drastically reduced ad sales for media companies.”

According to Cicilline, the investigation is vital to the survival of our democracy. First off, America is a republic.

Second, companies place their ads where they can reach the most people. This is common sense. The majority of people use Facebook. Therefore companies prefer Facebook for their ads.

The tech companies provided no comments or statements to publications, but I wonder if the news ticked them off since so many have given donations to those who launched this investigation. The Daily Beast reported that “[F]ifteen of the committee’s Democrats received a combined $152,000 last cycle from the political action committees of Google, Facebook, and Amazon (unlike those three, Apple does not have a corporate PAC)” while they also “donated $74,000 to ten Judiciary Republicans last cycle.”

DOJ, FTC

Cicilline opted for his own investigation because he doesn’t believe the DOJ and FTC “will get the job done.”

The DOJ and FTC agreed that the DOJ will have jurisdiction over “Apple Inc as part of a broader review of whether technology giants are using their size to act in an anti-competitive manner, two sources told Reuters” while the FTC will take jurisdiction on “antitrust probes of Apple and Google” and others.

The FTC will concentrate on Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram.

From The Washington Examiner:

The DOJ and FTC have reached an agreement with each other in divvying up investigative responsibilities against the big tech firms. The DOJ was given jurisdiction over any inquiries of possible monopolistic activities carried out by Apple and Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., while the FTC will be responsible for any improper behavior by Amazon and Facebook.

It is not yet known when these new investigations might begin, but some of the tech giant stock prices took a tumble on Monday with talk of investigative action.

As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, this news is not shocking as it has fomented for some time. This caused the big tech companies to flood Washington, DC, with lobbyists and lawyers. They also took other steps:

The internet industry—Google, Facebook and Amazon in particular—poured money into lobbying in the capital at a record pace in 2018. The industry total reached $77.9 million, compared with $16.4 million a decade earlier, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Google parent Alphabet alone spent $21.7 million in 2018, while Amazon came in at $14.4 million and Facebook at $12.6 million.

Tech industry investments in think tanks and other nonprofits in the antitrust space also have ticked up in recent years. Google recently funded more than 30 nonprofit groups that have a voice in the public debate over antitrust, according to Google’s transparency report. Those groups include major think tanks on the left and center left, as well as numerous conservative and libertarian groups and institutions. Amazon funds many of the same groups, according to its investment list.

Privacy Data Laws

It looks like these investigations have nothing to do with America’s privacy data laws.

Facebook “has faced setbacks in two major court cases – one in Delaware and one in the District of Columbia” over the way the company handles private data of its users. The Washington Examiner reported:

The Delaware case, brought against the company by Facebook shareholders, focuses on the $120 billion in shareholder value that was wiped out in July 2018 after Facebook financial disclosures that came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations. In October 2018, the Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local No. 79 General Fund (a major Facebook shareholder) filed a complaint in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, seeking to inspect Facebook’s books and records. Other shareholders soon joined the suit.

On Friday, Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights ruled in their favor and allowed their case to move forward, saying that the shareholders who brought the lawsuit “have sustained their minimal burden to demonstrate a credible basis of wrongdoing justifying the inspection of certain of the company’s books and records.” The 57-page opinion from Slights stated that “Facebook shall produce for inspection the books and records designated herein as essential to plaintiffs’ pursuit of their proper purpose.”

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a separate complaint against Facebook in December 2018 claiming that the company “broke District law and did not follow its own policies to protect the privacy of more than 340,000 Facebook users who reside in the District.” Facebook argued that Racine’s claims couldn’t withstand scrutiny and that the D.C. court lacked jurisdiction, and tried to dismiss or stay the proceedings.

But on Friday, Fern Flanagan Saddler, an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, made it clear that he didn’t agree with Facebook.

“This case presents the novel issue of personal jurisdiction in the realm of online social media and the distribution and maintenance of Face book users’ personal data,” Saddler said in a 33-page order. “Based upon the arguments of counsel, the parties’ filings, and the entire record herein, Defendant Facebook, Inc.’s motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, to stay proceedings, is hereby denied.“

I don’t know about you, but my concerns lie with the private data. However, we all know this happens, and we have a choice to use Facebook, Google, etc.

Don’t like Facebook? Use Minds.

Don’t like Google? Use one of the other browsers or search engines available to us consumers.

This should concern every citizen. These investigations are one step closer to the federal government regulating the entire internet. But they are our betters, so they know best for us.

 
 
donate
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.