Driven by President Donald Trump, the federal government will continue to study the technology-heavy hitters in Silicon Valley to identify any potential antitrust violations.
According to a report in The Washington Post, covering an interview Axios conducted with President Trump that aired on HBO Sunday (Nov. 4), Trump said the government is looking into it. “I am in charge,” he said in the interview. “I am definitely in charge, and we are certainly looking at it.” When Axios asked Trump to clarify whether the federal government was looking into Amazon, Facebook or Google, the president said it covered all three.
During the interview, Trump said that a previous administration has toyed with breaking up the tech industry. That claim may not be true, according to The Washington Post, given that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under President Barack Obama investigated Google over its search results, but determined there were no antitrust violations. Nor did the FTC weigh breaking up the company during the Obama administration, noted the report. Trump’s Antitrust Chief at the Justice Department Makan Delrahim has questioned whether there was enough evidence on an economic basis to prove the Silicon Valley heavy hitters were hurting competition and/or innovation.
Trump isn’t alone in calling for the FTC to reopen its inquiry into Google. The Washington Post pointed to Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican from Utah who wants the probe reopened. The paper noted that in September, the Justice Department hosted a meeting with state attorney generals to discuss the behavior of the technology companies to see if there were any violations of antitrust laws. State officials have launched inquiries and, in some cases, multistate investigations, noted the report.
Overseas, the European Union has taken a more aggressive stand on the U.S. tech companies than their counterparts in the U.S. It recently hit Google with a $5 billion fine for engaging in anti-competitive behavior when marketing its own apps, which has resulted in Google no longer bundling its browser and search engine with Google Play in Europe.