The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that its Antitrust Division will be launching an investigation into whether major online platforms are illegally harming their competitors and stifling innovation.
The department will be looking at “market-leading” firms—presumably Amazon, Facebook, Google, among others—and said the investigation will address “widespread concerns” regarding competition in the areas of online search, social media, and online retail.
The goal of the review, according to the DOJ’s statement, 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.”
The news sent share prices tumbling for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. As of 5:30 a.m. today, they’d lost around $33 billion in value. Amazon shed $9.8 billion, Facebook dropped $8.4 billion, and Apple saw a $6.8 billion decline in value.
Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been asking for an investigation like this for years.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday that he supports the DOJ’s investigation and voiced concerns about Amazon’s outsized influence, specifically saying the retailer has “destroyed the retail industry across the United States,” and adding, “there’s no question they’ve limited competition.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren goes even further on this issue—her presidential platform includes a call for the U.S. government to break up Google, Facebook, and Amazon. And in the first presidential debate for 2020, she doubled down on that position, saying, “We’ve had the laws out there for a long time to be able to fight back. What’s been missing is courage in Washington to take on the giants. It’s been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions…. I want to return government to the people, and that means calling out the names of the monopolists and saying, ‘I have the courage to go after them.’ ”
President Donald Trump has attacked big tech firms including Amazon and Google with regularity during both his candidacy and time in office. President Trump has accused Google of liberal bias, and he told Bloomberg last year that Google, Amazon, and Facebook could represent a “very antitrust situation.” And in a tweet last year, he called Amazon a “no-tax monopoly” that uses the U.S. Postal Service as its “delivery boy.” Still, he’s declined to say whether he thinks the government should move to break up the tech firms.
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