Silicon Valley is preparing for a showdown as Congress and regulators increase their oversight of tech giants and how they wield their power.
The federal government’s top antitrust enforcers, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have reportedly come to an agreement on how to divide up their responsibilities for investigating Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. The Justice Department is setting its sights on Apple and Google and the FTC taking the lead on Facebook and Amazon. The agencies are said to be weighing whether to open formal investigations.
On Monday, Congress also jumped into the fray. The House Judiciary Committee announced a bipartisan investigation into Silicon Valley and competition among online businesses.
The investigation will seek to determine whether tech giants have hurt competition and whether Congress needs to update the nation’s antitrust laws to address the modern internet economy.
“It’s an opportunity to look at our antitrust statutes to determine whether they need to be modernized and updated,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, told reporters on Monday.
The tech industry has faced tough antitrust focus from European regulators but long enjoyed relaxed oversight from Washington. Now, big tech faces a high-stakes battle over their business model that could last for years.
And the industry finds itself with very few allies. President Trump, Republicans and Democrats have all united behind the threat of tougher enforcement.
Congress is pushing for national privacy legislation to regulate how the industry collects and uses personal data. And Facebook is facing the potential of a record multibillion-dollar fine from the FTC after a year-long investigation into its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Amazon, Facebook and Google declined to comment on the House investigation. Apple did not respond when asked for comment.
Industry leaders have responded strongly on antitrust criticisms, arguing that they all face strong competition from rivals and denying that any of them have a monopoly. And they are likely to fight any antitrust action vigorously.
“I don’t think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with CBS aired Tuesday.