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Tech giants like Facebook and Amazon face huge US government antitrust probe


THE US government last night announced a sweeping investigation into the world's biggest tech companies over competition rules  A major antitrust probe will look at whether giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers  The Department of Justice said it has taken into account "widespread concerns" about the impact of social media, search engines and online retailers  Makan Delrahim, the department's chief antitrust officer, said: "Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands  "The Department's antitrust review will explore these important issues"  Investigators are seeking information from the public – including those in the tech industry PRIVACY SCANDALS  It marks a pivotal moment following months of concern in Congress and elsewhere over the sway of firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon  There have been calls for stricter regulation or even breakups of the big tech companies amid intense criticism following a number of privacy scandals  Facebook is reportedly set to be hit with a $5 billion (£4bn) fine and limits on its operations Federal Trade Commission probe into its privacy practices  The FTC also reportedly plans to hand Google a multimillion dollar fine over its handling of children's information on YouTube  Europe has already investigated and fined several major tech companies over the past several years TRUMP CRITICISM  President Donald Trump also has repeatedly criticised the big tech companies by name in recent months over alleged bias against him  Amazon and Facebook had no comment, while Apple and Google referred inquiries to recent public statements by their execs  Shares of Facebook, Amazon and Apple were down slightly in after-hours trading

 Investigators are expected to have a tough time pinning any wrongdoing on the major tech giants  Traditional antitrust law focuses on dominant businesses that harm consumers through price-gouging  Many tech companies offer free products paid for by a largely invisible trade in users' personal data BUYING UP RIVALS  But they could face scrutiny for consistently buying up smaller rivals that might be a threat to their business  Google bought YouTube in 2006 when it was still a fledging video site  And it acquired the technology for its now-dominant Android software in an even smaller deal  Facebook snapped up Instagram – now the fastest-growing part of its business – in its infancy  Apple bought the technology powering its Siri assistant  Attorney General William Barr said in January that tech companies appeared to grow huge "under the nose" of antitrust enforcers  He added: "You know, you can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws  "But I want to find out more about that dynamic"

Source: Youtube

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