House Panel Launches Bipartisan Probe Of Big Tech's Power

After a bloodbath in tech stocks today, driven by FTC/DoJ investigation headlines, the House Judiciary Committee has just piled on, announcing a bipartisan probe into whether large tech companies are suppressing competition.

“The Antitrust Subcommittee will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms. This is the first time Congress has undertaken an investigation into this behavior,” the Judiciary Cmte says in statement.

The probe will focus on 3 main areas:

  1. Documenting competition problems in digital markets

  2. Examining if dominant cos. are engaging in anti-competitive conduct

  3. Assessing whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues

So far the market is not happy...

WaPo reports that Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) said the investigation won’t target one specific tech company, but rather focus on the broad belief that the “Internet is broken,” he told reporters. In doing so, he pointed out problematic practices at tech giants such as Google, which has faced sanctions in Europe for prioritizing its services in search over rivals, and Facebook, which Cicilline criticized for cloning and acquiring competitors to ensure its continued dominance in social networking. Amazon and Apple also could figure into the committee’s early plans, he said, cautioning the goal is a broader look at the industry.

“In a lot of ways, there was a reluctance in the early days of the Internet to interfere,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

“It was creating so much value in the lives of people that [some felt] you should get out of the way and allow it to flourish.”

"Over time," Cicilline continued, "people have recognized there are some real dangers here."

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement:

"The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online, but there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications."

"The Committee has a rich tradition of conducting studies and investigations to assess the threat of monopoly power in the U.S. economy."

"Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws.

Well those hearings should be yet another circus, especially coming just after Google Cloud's outage crushing online commerce for hours yesterday.

As Roger McNamee - an early investor in Apple, Facebook, and Google and a former adviser to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg who has since become a critic of the companies - noted earlier in the day, “The Internet platforms have operated with impunity since their founding, producing horrific outcomes for democracy, public health, privacy, and competition."