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U.S. attorney general says Big Tech probes to be completed next year

by Dalton Penny (2020-04-24)

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday that he hoped to have Justice Department investigations of the big tech platforms - Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc - completed next year.

The four tech companies have been lightning rods for regulator probes this year.

It was announced in July that the Department of Justice had opened a sweeping antitrust investigation of big technology companies to look at whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

The move came as a growing number of lawmakers called for stricter regulation or even breaking up of the big tech companies, which have come under intense scrutiny following a series of scandals that compromised users' privacy. 

In addition to the Justice investigations, the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and Congress are looking at one or more of the companies.

'We started in earnest in July. It's been moving very quickly,' Barr told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council. 






U.S. Attorney General William Barr, pictured, said on Tuesday that he hoped to have Justice Department investigations of the big tech platforms - Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc - completed next year


He added: 'We're talking very broadly with people and getting a lot of input from people in the industry and experts and so forth.'

'I'd like to have it completed some time next year. I think it's important to move quickly on things,' Barr said. 'These things have a cost to the marketplace and businesses. I think at some point the government has to fish or cut bait.'

Barr said that the Justice Department review was not limited to antitrust, but that looking for anti-competitive behavior was 'front and center.'






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'The question is that when you have the kind of market power that some companies have in their market, then some conduct that may have made sense when they were the insurgent company in a growing industry can become anti-competitive because it ends up fortifying the monopoly,' he said.

The attorney general, however, also cited his previous work for Verizon Communications, in arguing that big companies provided some benefits to consumers, particularly in telecommunications.

'Big is not bad,' he said. 'I think in certain network industries you can be too Balkanized and no one has the scale necessary for the kind of innovation that we're seeing.' 

President Donald Trump has relentlessly criticized the big tech companies by name in recent months. He frequently asserts that companies such as Facebook and Google are biased against him and conservative politicians. 

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