The Department of Justice just cracked open the tech industry’s latest threat—and it’s a big one.
Rumors of the DOJ’s interest in investigating tech’s most massive companies have bubbled up for months. The department finally announced the probe on Tuesday in a press release, stating that its antitrust division would review business practices among “market-leading online platforms.”
The announcement doesn’t name names, though given recent congressional antitrust scrutiny, the probe is likely to threaten Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple.
The DOJ’s review sets some surprisingly broad parameters. It sounds like any potentially monopolistic activity is fair game, and the department will examine “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”
That scope could include everything from Facebook and Amazon’s acquisitions to Apple’s App Store practices and Google’s expansion into product categories far and wide.
“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division said in the announcement.
When reached for comment, Google pointed The Daily Beast to testimony from Google Director of Economic Policy Adam Cohen before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
“We have created new competition in many sectors, and new competitive pressures often lead to concerns from rivals,” Cohen said. “We have consistently shown how our business is designed and operated to benefit our customers.”
Apple responded to the DOJ news by highlighting comments Apple CEO Tim Cook made to CBS last month. “I think we should be scrutinized. But if you look at any kind of measure about is Apple a monopoly or not, I don't think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly,” Cook said. He added that Apple does not have “a dominant position in any market.”
Facebook and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment and the Department of Justice declined to provide further details on its review.
Last month in a CNBC interview, Trump criticized the EU’s antitrust fines against American tech giants, suggesting Attorney General William Barr should be pursuing similar actions to the benefit of the U.S. instead.
“They get all this money. We should be doing that—they’re our companies, so they’re actually attacking our companies,” Trump said. “I think it is a bad situation, but, obviously, there is something going on in terms of monopoly.”