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US committee investigates the dominance of tech giants

The US House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into the market dominance of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, starting with a look at the impact of the tech giants’ platforms on news content, the media and the spread of misinformation online, reports Courthouse News. “In a Capitol steeped in partisanship, inflamed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Democrats’ intensifying probes of President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation of tech market power stands out. Not only is it bipartisan, it’s the first such review by Congress of a sector that for more than a decade has enjoyed haloed status and a light touch from federal regulators.” With regulators at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission apparently pursuing antitrust investigations of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, and several state attorneys general exploring bipartisan action of their own, the tech industry finds itself in a precarious moment – with the dreaded M-word increasingly used to describe their way of doing business. “These are monopolies,” Rep. David Cicilline said. Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, is leading the subcommittee hearing and vowed that the panel will broadly investigate the digital marketplace and “the dominance of large technology platforms”, with an eye toward legislative action to increase competition. “We know the problems; they’re easy to diagnose,” Cicilline said. “Shaping the solutions is going to be more difficult.” Several Democratic presidential candidates think they have the solution: breaking up the companies on antitrust grounds. Cicilline has called that “a last resort”, but the idea has currency with both parties – including at the White House. “President Trump noted the huge fines imposed by European regulators on big tech companies. “We are going to be looking at them differently,” he said in an interview on CNBC. “We should be doing what (the Europeans) are doing,” Trump said. “Obviously, there is something going on in terms of monopoly.” But until executives are called to testify, it’s likely to be tough for the subcommittee as it hears from experts and its staff, collects data and documents, and interviews industry players and others behind closed doors. “There could be something really useful” to emerge as legislation, said Allen Grunes, who led merger investigations at the Justice Department as an antitrust attorney. Lawmakers could address, for example, the galloping acquisition of small companies by the tech giants or craft an update of antitrust laws to apply better to complex tech behemoths, suggested Grunes. “It’s not illegal to be a monopoly,” he said. “But it’s wrong for someone at the top of the hill to kick the people off who are trying to climb it.” Meanwhile the New York Times reports on privacy, saying: “Congress is considering several pieces of legislation that would strengthen Americans’ privacy rights, and alongside them, a few bills that would make it easier for tech companies to strip away what few privacy rights we now enjoy… American lawmakers are late to the party. Europe has already set what amounts to a global privacy standard with its General Data Protection Regulation.” See more and here.

  • Monday, 17 June 2019

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