The US Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into several leaders in the US tech community. Details are sketchy but the department has confirmed the investigation.
The move is on top of already announced investigations into Google and Facebook individually, and appears focused on the wider ecosystem.
According to a DOJ statement, “The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.”
“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”
As America’s tech giants have hoovered up increasingly large amounts of market share, whether that be in advertising or retail, the risk of antitrust action has grown along accordingly.
On top of that, the style of surveillance capitalism that underpins the success of companies like Facebook and Google – both of whom are believed to be in the frame for the DOJ probe – has likewise raised very serious privacy concerns.
Last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal cut through with the community in a way previous stories hadn’t as it injected concerns over privacy abuses into that country’s toxic political debate at the time, following the election of Donald Trump as president.
The impending $5 billion fine levied on Facebook is more evidence that the tide is turning against the major dotcoms, as is the fact that the size of the fine was considered inadequate in many parts of the community.
The goal of new review is to “assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want. If violations of law are identified, the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress,” according to the DOJ.