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Congress, DOJ Launch Antitrust Investigation Into Big Tech Monopolies, Business Practices

Congress, DOJ Launch Antitrust Investigation Into Big Tech Monopolies, Business Practices

Pelosi: “The era of self-regulation is over.”

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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.

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Comments

Mary, you are so misinformed about this. Google, Facebook, Tesla, and so many other of these companies are, get ready for this, funded by billions of dollars of taxpayer (Pentagon and other) money. And they have been as predatory as any monopolists in history.

You need to keep investigating this instead of issuing a knee-jerk reaction. It’s not primarily about Pelosi nor the House Judiciary committee (although I don’t understand their involvement in this). This is a broad-based investigation into the Masters of the Universe takeover of the global economy.

These companies have so trampled the field that they have no friends anymore. Amazon recently landed a no-bid $10B Pentagon contract and it was revealed that they offered a cushy job to someone at the Pentagon.

You are right being “ticked” at this but you are ticked for the wrong reasons. Just as being ticked over tariffs. You have to make room in your reasoning that there is a war going on and you have to fight specific enemies with the tools that you have. Most of these issues, not just China, Korea, EU etc… should have been addressed many years ago. Thank God we have a president who has the balls to take on the existential threats of our time.

    For dems, this is a shakedown for more campaign cash. Nothing more. Just like the EU likes shaking these companies down for fines, the dems want to squeeze them for contributions. It’s not enough for them to be left leaning, they NEED to assure dems get in power and stay there.

    Well that and all the grand standing.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Andy. | June 4, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Exactly, Nancy sounds to be in the right, but I’m skeptical that anything is actually done (although they will certainly claim otherwise).

      These are their allies, and they must look to be tough and neutral for election season. That they are normalizing talk of increased regulation for their own sake is just a bonus. That they get to take a shot at DOJ is also an added bonus.

        rdmdawg in reply to healthguyfsu. | June 4, 2019 at 1:58 pm

        Oh god, you do not want Pelosi or the government anywhere near regulating the internet, they’ll change it entirely and if you think conservatives are getting silenced now, you havn’t seen anything yet.

          Terence G. Gain in reply to rdmdawg. | June 4, 2019 at 2:05 pm

          Any new law would need to pass the Republican Senate and be signed by a Republican President. Currently the Internet ( Google) Facebook and Twitter are being run by Fascist Leftists. They control what you can read and communicate. The inevitable result of this is more Democrat election victories.

          healthguyfsu in reply to rdmdawg. | June 4, 2019 at 4:44 pm

          That’s a terribly oversimplistic view.

          Misinformation proven false has a way of lowering the credibility of the source. People aren’t mindless drones and distrust of msm is already at record highs. Social media based news is an extension of the msm, so mistrust of social media can’t be that much better.

          stablesort in reply to rdmdawg. | June 4, 2019 at 6:40 pm

          Terence G. Gain: Any new law would need to pass the Republican Senate and be signed by a Republican President

          Expansions of government power are always fraught with danger. What’s that old saw? Hard cases make bad law.

      That probably explains why Pelosi is doing this and using the communist stronghold of the House Judiciary Committee. But as explained in Mary’s post, this is just one of several investigations.

      If you ever played Monopoly, you understand what the problem is. Maybe someone should have created a “After Monopoly” game and called “Pottersville” to help people understand what happens after the monopolies take hold, a concept that seems impossible for the so-called “free market” libertarians to grasp. BTW, when “It’s A Wonderful Life” was released in 1939, industry groups did their best to have the movie banned for being pro-communist.

      Anyone who believes that trusts are benign, once liberated, the parts become more efficient and thus more valuable in a well-regulated free market. When Standard Oil was broken up into the “seven sisters”, each of those new entities exploded in value. John D. Rockefeller became a very rich man creating that monopoly when he was mainly selling oil for lamps. But the breakup of Standard oil wealth propelled him to the wealthiest man in the world. The stockholders and consumers did very well too. More supply at lower cost. Everyone was a winner. And then the automobile took off into an abundant fuel supply.

      We can do without Facebook. But Amazon and Google and a few others are ripe for a very liberating breakup.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Andy. | June 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      Andy I was just thinking the same.

      The “Uni-Party” doesn’t give a fig about free speech and liberty or big the King Kong Tech companies trample and collude with Communist governments is spying on their own people.

      It’s just a timely big money shake down for them.

I can’t believe I’m saying this here…I PARTIALLY agree with Nancy Pelosi here. The tech Titans have been engaging in extremely predatory monopoly behavior which has been documented. They also have (more ominously) been setting themselves up as gatekeepers of public discourse, acting in unison to police what viewpoints people get to see and hear. Both must stop.

    rdmdawg in reply to Joelist. | June 4, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Pelosi wants social media to crack down even harder on conservatives. She is thinking about Cambridge Analytical, using facebook-provided data to assist the Trump campaign. Dems still havn’t forgot or forgiven that. She couldn’t care less about Alex Jones or Sargon of Akkad or other conservatives being banished from the internet. Don’t ask for government regulation, you won’t like what you get.

      You will have to be more precise about your definition of “government regulation”. You also need to explain why you believe monopolies that have the technology and political might to shut down those perceived freedoms are better protected by “free markets” (whatever that is) than by prudent anti-trust regulation. Unregulated “free markets” is how we got into this mess. The rules define capitalism just like they define baseball and everything. Nothing exists in a vacuum. That is called “chaos”

      Our constitutional government is all about regulations and their enforcement. Even self-government is predicated on the assumption that we have a ruling consensus that operates within rules (ethos). Hard rules exist because men are not angels.

Election cycle window dressing. Both parties do it to us every two years.

Regrettable though they may be, adding government regulation will only make the internet worse.

There are already alternative remedies available to FB, Google, Apple and trivial operations such as Twitter. Amazon, OTOH, is a different situation that goes beyond the internet.

“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.”

Boom. Word. But…

Always a but. The bigger issue for me is common carrier VS private publisher – and the responsibilities, regulations, rewards and consequences which result.

The various phone companies are common carriers. If some dirtbag is using his phone to distribute child pr0n or plot a terrorist attack, the phone company ain’t held responsible.

Facebooo, tweeter, snapgram, or whose-its claim the same ‘common carrier’ status, but that’s a LIE. They selectively edit and ban content like a private publisher – which ARE held responsible for illegal content via libel laws.

These social networks apparently have it both ways. The DOJ, not Congress, needs to fix it.

    This nails it entirely. It’s a legal issue, not a regulatory one, and the social media companies are opening themselves up to an insane amount of civil and criminal liability by becoming publishers.

Regulation? No thanks.

Break ’em up.

Terence G. Gain | June 4, 2019 at 1:24 pm

Facebook has monopoly power and should be regulated like a common carrier. It makes no sense to say – “use another platform’. Everybody is on Facebook. I am currently under suspension by Facebook for the comment reproduced below, which was in reply to someone who said: Muslimes (sic) are stuck in the 7th century. So under Facebook’s rules one is not even allowed to suggest that “love your neighbour” is more enlightened than “kill your neighbour if he leaves Islam or refuses to join”. Facebook is run by fascists and nothing good will come from this monopoly power . It needs to be curbed.

……………..

Muslimes are stuck in the 7th century. Their stone age laws have no place in this century

Reply
Terry Gain says
Jun 1, 2019 at 9:58 am
Actually Muslims are stuck in BC. The 7th century came after the enlightenment brought by Christ

For now, these are just investigations. No one is proposing any regulations. However, it is clear that these monopolies need to be broken up. We can’t have corporations collecting all of our private information, processing it, reselling it to advertisers (or giving it away outright to the government) and expect that our constitutional rights will survive. This process is called “surveillance capitalism”.

It doesn’t matter who does it. It has to be done. Has anyone stopped to wonder why all of the Masters of the Universe (MOTUs) want to go to Mars? Why are these publicly-traded companies taking government money to engage in activities that are not reported to shareholders? If they were broken up, we would find out.

These MOTU companies are the means global government is being imposed upon us as we pay for it using their “free” services that report every single detail of our lives. So this isn’t just a parlor discussion debating the fine points of conservatism vs libertarianism vs socialism vs whatever. We need to get this right and very soon.

    rdmdawg in reply to Pasadena Phil. | June 4, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    ‘We can’t have corporations collecting all of our private information, processing it, reselling it to advertisers (or giving it away outright to the government) and expect that our constitutional rights will survive.’

    Nobody forces anyone to deal with these corporations, and social media is hardly a necessity in most people’s lives. There exists plenty of competition to each of these platforms.

    You want to know who does have the power to force you to do something you don’t want to do, to take away all that you own, to destroy your life? That would be government, and you’re still calling for the expansion of government power. Thanks but no thanks.

Terence G. Gain | June 4, 2019 at 10:39 pm

The more serious threat from Google, Facebook and Twitter is that they control and censor information. This is more powerful than political office.

PersonofInterests | June 5, 2019 at 9:41 am

I remember the day when Cable was regulated and it cost me about $20/month with National Cable that included HBO and Showtime. Now, my Comcast Bill just for the Internet is almost $100/month, i.e., no entertainment without buying an Amazon Firestick and subscrbing to apps like Netflix, Playstation Vue, and others to stream.

I remember the day when Cable touted superiority because they didn’t have advertisements while Analog Free TV did. Fast forward to today and just like Analog TV of yore, about 50% of the viewing time is consumed with advertisement but now I’m paying for it – stuff I will never buy.

If that were not enough, the regions of the Country are carved up like a turkey and no more than one or none other internet service provider is avaialbe, i.e., no competititon to bring down prices as “Deregulation” was suppose to foster. You either buy Comcast or Frontier in our area.

Didn’t the American Taxpayers fund the development of the Internet? So why are we paying $100/month just for the Internet??

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to PersonofInterests. | June 5, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I live in a town of about 65,000 people. I can get high speed internet (not great, but it works) from AT&T, I get very good speeds from Comcast/Xfinity, albeit for a rather steep price, and I can get 10 mbps (enough for some, not for me) from CenturyStink. Soon, I will also have up to 10gbps via fiber from Bright Ridge, and Verizon is, even in our little burg, expected to have 5G by next spring at the latest.

    YMMV.

    I, too, recall the “$20.00” cable, that in reality was about $32 to $35. It was also when I bought a very nice new car for $4,500; my electricity was $.0,4/kWh; gasoline was under a buck, and ground beef was still priced in cents per pound.

      PersonofInterests in reply to The Friendly Grizzly. | June 5, 2019 at 11:51 am

      Sorry Grizz, but when cars sold for $4500, it was in the 60s and before Cable and the $20 price tag that I bought in the 90s.

      The point is that with or without regulation, the Sheeple are bing sheared.

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