A PYMNTS Company

Congress Urged to Investigate Big Techs’ Evidence Tampering

 |  June 4, 2024

A coalition of advocacy groups has formally requested Congress to initiate an investigation into allegations that Big Tech companies have been systematically destroying evidence pertinent to antitrust investigations.

“We are disturbed by recent reports that the tech giants have yet again been caught systematically deleting internal messages and chats tied to active federal investigations, thus concealing them from regulators and the courts,” the groups wrote in a letter to the top lawmakers on the Senate and House Judiciary committees dated Monday. They cite findings from a judge and accusations by the Federal Trade Commission that these practices are taking place.

“This behavior is not new, but it has grown steeply in recent years,” the groups wrote, calling on lawmakers to investigate the alleged practice “to safeguard the power of the federal government to enforce antitrust laws and regulations in good faith.”

Coalition’s Call to Action

The coalition, spearheaded by the Tech Oversight Project, has addressed both the House and Senate, urging them to examine the practices of tech giants closely. In a detailed letter to Congress, the group highlighted instances where Big Tech companies allegedly engaged in the destruction of crucial evidence that could have been vital in ongoing antitrust probes. The letter explicitly accuses these corporations of “destroying evidence, silencing potential witnesses through nondisclosure agreements and engaging in other practices that could obstruct justice.”

Implications for Antitrust Enforcement

The coalition’s letter points out that such practices, if left unchecked, could significantly hinder the government’s ability to enforce antitrust laws effectively. This could, in turn, embolden companies to engage in anti-competitive behavior with impunity, knowing that evidence crucial to any investigation could be manipulated or destroyed.

The letter highlighted instances where tech companies, including Google LLC, Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc., likely destroyed evidence relevant to legal proceedings.

Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, overseeing the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google, criticized the company for “negligently” failing to retain records and for a policy that automatically deletes employees’ internal messages after 24 hours.

“Google’s document retention policy leaves a lot to be desired,” Mehta said at a May 3 hearing, according to the Associated Press. “It’s shocking to me that a company would leave it to its employees to decide when to preserve documents.”

A Google lawyer defended the policy as “reasonable,” the AP reported. Justice Department lawyers have requested the court sanction Google for destroying documents.

The letter is addressed to Senate Judiciary Chair Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.; the committee’s ranking member, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham; House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and ranking member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., as well as the top lawmakers on two subcommittees.