Big Tech Bullies: US report accuses technology giants of antitrust violations

October 22, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

A US congressional report has alleged that Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have all participated in anti-competitive business practices in order to quash their competitors.

What does this mean?

After a 16-month investigation into anti-competitive behaviour, the US House of Representatives Antitrust Subcommittee has released its report.

The report accuses Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google of various anti-competitive behaviours, including:

  • buying up the competition through various acquisitions;
  • using their platforms to unfairly promote their own products and services;
  • using high fees to exclude rival companies from their platforms; and
  • hindering the growth of third party companies on platforms such as Amazon Marketplace.

The Subcommittee’s recommendations on preventing anti-competitive behaviour include increasing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) funding to ensure better enforcement of antitrust laws. The Subcommittee also recommends reforming the existing antitrust laws in a way that will allow the government to rein in the power of these companies. The most controversial recommendation is that the companies should be restructured and have their business lines separated (e.g. Facebook would be split from Instagram and WhatsApp). Facebook has brushed off this recommendation, calling it a “non-starter”.

What's the big picture effect?

The report’s release is the most recent step in the US government’s ongoing investigation into Big Tech companies’ anti-competitive behaviour. It demonstrates the growing concern about the power that these companies wieldover the tech market, user data and business relations more generally. As such, the months to come will be crucial for the future of Big Tech operators; the Trump administration is currently finalising an antitrust lawsuit against Google and the FTC is allegedly going to file a complaint against Facebook on antitrust grounds before the end of 2020.

Big Tech companies are also facing similar problems in other jurisdictions. The EU is creating a list of 20 big internet companies who will have to comply with tougher regulations than their smaller competitors. The intention is to curb their market power and create a more level playing field. The EU has said that, in extreme circumstances, it is prepared to do what the US Congress recommends – breaking up companies, forcing part-sales and mandating that data be made available to competitors. China is also allegedly launching an antitrust investigation into Google at the request of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.

The actual impact of the report will probably depend upon the result of the upcoming US election. The majority of the Subcommittee members were Democrats, meaning should Biden win the election there may well be more bumps in the road for Big Tech. Republicans are not endorsing the report, meaning that another 4 years of the Trump administration may be In the best interests of Big Tech.

It certainly seems that most gripping legal case at the moment is Big Tech v. The World.

Report written by Catrin Trefor

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