The Department of Justice has opened a sweeping antitrust investigation of big technology companies and whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers. It comes as a growing number of lawmakers have called for stricter regulation or even breaking up the big tech companies, which have come under intense scrutiny following a series of scandals that compromised users' privacy. President Trump also has relentlessly criticized the big tech companies by name in recent months. He frequently asserts, without evidence, that companies such as Facebook and Google are biased against him and conservative politicians, the AP reports. The Justice Department did not name specific companies in its announcement.
The focus of the investigation closely mirrors a bipartisan probe of Big Tech undertaken by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. One antitrust expert believes the DOJ investigation may prompt regulators to interpret US competition law in new ways. University of Pennsylvania law professor Herbert Hovenkamp says the companies may have been abusing their market power by collectively buying hundreds of startups in recent years to devour their technology and prevent them from growing into formidable rivals. Traditionally, antitrust regulators have only sought to block acquisitions involving large companies in adjacent markets. But Hovenkamp says US antitrust law is broad enough for regulators to consider the potential damage wrought by relatively small deals, too. Shares of Facebook, Amazon, and Apple were down slightly in after-hours trading.
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