ANTITRUST

Antitrust Head: In Tech, ‘Big’ Not Necessarily ‘Bad’

In antitrust matters – and specifically in the tech realm – size may not matter all that much. And the biggest of the big tech players should not be singled out due to scale and reach.

News came this week from Bloomberg reports that Makan Delrahim, who serves as head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, noted that dominance does not mean that unfair tactics are at hand.

“Just because somebody is big does not mean they have violated the laws. Nor should we condemn them because they have succeeded,” Delrahim said on Thursday, in remarks at a conference in New York.

That statement came, as Bloomberg noted, a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Justice Department will look into whether larger tech firms are hurting competition.

The ostensible clash of ideals comes as firms such as Amazon and Google are coming under more scrutiny on Capitol Hill and beyond, and where executives from companies like Facebook and Twitter have been testifying about alleged election interference and misinformation campaigns waged over social media. In turn, the Justice Department has stated that it will be looking at those tech juggernauts in tandem with various state attorneys general. Said the Justice Department via statement released this week: “The attorney general has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”

But in his own Thursday remarks, Delrahim stated that discussion and examination of the practices of these firms remains important, and that he supported the aforementioned Justice Department meeting. But when it comes to antitrust issues, along with the need for upstart (smaller) tech firms to be able to compete with outsized firms, he said, there exists the need for “credible evidence” that firms are indeed making an effort to hurt competition.

As Delrahim stated, “Is any of their conduct in any way limiting the ability of that upstart to challenge their position in that market where they’re dominating? Big is not bad, but behaving badly is bad.”

The debate over competitive practices is almost certainly to rage on – and yes, with big tech in the spotlight, as noted recently by PYMNTS’ own Karen Webster. And it seems the marquee names are the ones in various crosshairs. Consider the fact that just last week – and perhaps beyond the confines of the Justice Department’s gaze – the Trump administration has said through Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow that it is “taking a look” at possibly regulating Google (and, by extension, its search engine).

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