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House Democrats Announce An Antitrust Investigation Into Big Tech

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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House Democrats are planning a review of Facebook and Google to determine if the tech giants are stifling competition and harming consumers, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The probe, which was announced by Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, is expected to be far-reaching and comes as Democrats and Republicans are walloping Silicon Valley. The investigation will not focus on any one company, Cicilline told reporters.

“In a lot of ways, there was a reluctance in the early days of the Internet to interfere,” he said. “It was creating so much value in the lives of people that [some felt] you should get out of the way and allow it to flourish.” Amazon and Apple could potentially figure into the probe at some point, Cicilline added.

Facebook, Amazon, and Apple did not respond to WaPo’s request for comment, and Google declined comment. (RELATED: Trump’s DOJ Prepares An Anti-Trust Investigation Into Google’s Business Practic: REPORT)

The investigation comes several days after a Wall Street Journal report noted that the Department of Justice is preparing an antitrust probe against Google’s search engine and business model. It would be the first such investigation since the Federal Trade Commission conducted a probe of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.

(Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images for MoveOn)

Elizabeth Warren speaks onstage at the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum (Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images for MoveOn)

Conservatives and liberals have become increasingly critical of big tech. Facebook was scrutinized after Russia used its platform to intervene in American politics. Lawmakers are also unsure about the companies assurances that they are careful handling private data.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, for instance, proposed a bill in May that would essentially block tech companies from tracking people’s locations without direct consent. Among other things, his legislation would prohibit entities like Google from profiling Americans who activate a so-called Do Not Track program.

Democratic presidential contenders have also gotten into the spirit. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, for one, promoted a proposal that would impose rules on tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual ad revenue, forcing Amazon and Google to dramatically reduce their hold on online commerce. It would effectively break up big tech.

The House investigation shows that Democratic lawmakers are getting into the act. Cicilline called the probe a “monopoly moment” for the tech industry. He told reporters that the House Judiciary Committee and its top antitrust panel would focus their review on crafting their own recommendations.

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