William Barr, the nominee for attorney general, said that government regulators might need to take a deeper look at tech “behemoths” like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, according to a report by CNBC.
In his confirmation hearing on Tuesday (Jan. 15), Barr, who was a board member of Time Warner during its attempt to merge with AT&T, has personal experience with antitrust proceedings. He said that competition is good for consumers, but that he needs to look into the topic more.
“The purpose of the antitrust laws, obviously, is to protect competition. At the same time, I’m sort of interested in stepping back and reassessing, or learning more about how the antitrust division has been functioning and what their priorities are,” Barr said. “I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers. You can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic.”
Barr said he’s interested in a few different issues when it comes to tech companies.
“I would like to weigh in to some of these issues,” he said. “I’d like to have the antitrust [division] support that effort to get more involved in reviewing the situation from a competition standpoint. I also am interested in the issue of privacy. And the question of who owns this data. And, you know, it’s not an area that I’ve studied closely or become an expert in. But I think it’s important for the department to get more involved in these questions.”
One of his main concerns, Barr said, is the “network effects” that have let tech companies balloon and become “so powerful that particular sectors could essentially be subsumed into these networks.”
As for the Time Warner-AT&T case, he said he would recuse himself if he was confirmed as the attorney general.