The Justice Department (DOJ) is going to open a new, separate investigation into the potential antitrust activities of tech companies, compounding troubles for companies like Facebook, Apple and Google that are already the subject of probes by the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the probe will look into whether these big name companies are using their power and influence to stifle competition, which would be illegal. The main avenues to be examined are internet search, social media practices and shopping services.
The move illustrates Attorney General William Barr’s interest in the tech space, and it would add to the already significant pressure and spotlight these companies have been facing in the past few years. The plan for the probe is to surpass the plans set forth by the FTC to investigate tech companies.
Both agencies are tasked with antitrust authority, and the two recently worked out a deal about which department will investigate certain companies. Now that the DOJ has added a new probe into the mix, some experts are concerned that companies could face claims from both organizations.
The DOJ said it’s going to look into how tech companies have grown to prominence so quickly, and also how they’ve acquired smaller businesses and grown in size. It also wants to look into how having such a huge user base gives the company power.
The initial phase of the investigation will be to figure out the landscape; whether there are antitrust issues that need to be addressed. However, the investigation is not confined to any one area, and the beginning phases of it could very well lead to more focused investigations, based on findings.
If the DOJ finds compliance issues outside of its antitrust vacuum, then it will follow those as well, an official told the journal.
The DOJ is already conducting an investigation into Alphabet and its practices, and the DOJ antitrust division is going to handle both of the reviews, although whether there will be intersect is not known. The broader investigation with be closely coordinated with the Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.