US Justice Department launches new, sweeping tech antitrust probe

Amid multiple other antitrust investigations into the US tech industry, the DOJ will now review the competitive landscape of search, social media and retail services online.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

The US Justice Department on Tuesday announced a new, sweeping antitrust probe into the tech industry. The US tech industry's competitive landscape is already under intense scrutiny, as regulators at home and abroad grapple with the growing size and influence of US tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. 

This newly-announced review, conducted by the DOJ's Antitrust Division, will apply to "market-leading online platforms," the agency said in a release. "It will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online."

The agency said the Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, "including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms."

The broad investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, goes beyond the recently reported plans for the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open up antitrust investigations into Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. The FTC and DOJ reportedly divvied up oversight responsibilities, with the DOJ taking jurisdiction over matters related to Google and Apple while the FTC handles Amazon and Facebook.

Back in February, the FTC announced the formation of a new taskforce to monitor the US tech industry and markets for online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and platform businesses.

Meanwhile, just last month, the House Judiciary Committee announced its own bipartisan investigation, promising a "top-to-bottom review" of the market power held by giant tech platforms.

Scrutiny of Big Tech has entered US presidential politics as well. In March, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren outlined a plan to reverse Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, as well as Facebook's purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram. These companies, Warren has argued, have too much influence over the economy, society, and politics, while stifling competition, innovation and small businesses.

On the other side of the aisle, President Donald Trump has taken swipes at major tech firms, including Google and Amazon. 

In Europe, regulators recently announced an antitrust probe into Amazon's use of sensitive data from the independent retailers that sell on its marketplace. Meanwhile, Google last month said it has appealed the €1.49 billion fine it faces for allegedly partaking in advertising practices that breached EU antitrust rules.

Prior and related coverage:

Editorial standards