June 18, 2019
Over the past few days such news organizations as Reuters, the Washington Post and Bloomberg have reported that sources have informed them that the United States government plans to step up scrutiny of four of the world’s leading tech giants headquartered in the U.S.: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
The intent of the reported probe is to determine whether any of these market leaders are misusing their dominant positions to their own advantage. Any such finding could result in charges of violations of antitrust laws - federal and state laws that regulate the organization and conduct of business corporations in order to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers.
Disclosures to date hint at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) dividing oversight responsibilities. Reportedly, the FTC will scrutinize Amazon and Facebook; and the DOJ will assume responsibility for investigating Apple and Google.
Seattle-based Amazon operates the world’s largest e-commerce marketplace, which accounts for 49% of online purchases, and is a leader in cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence. The world’s largest Internet company (based on revenue) has the ability to disrupt established industries, so frequently draws the attention of competitors as well as lawmakers.
Apple Inc., headquartered in Cupertino, markets consumer electronics, software, and online services. Critics argue that the company’s App Store employs anti-competitive practices. When Apple users download to their devices apps bought in the App Store, Apple collects subscription fees from those who developed the software. This so-called “Apple Tax” is criticized by developers whose apps often compete with Apple’s own apps.
Facebook, with headquarters in Menlo Park, owns and operates the world’s largest online social networking site. The Facebook app had more than 2.3 billion monthly active users as of December 2018. More concerning to critics is the fact that Facebook owns four of the world's top seven social networks, including acquisitions Instagram and Whatsapp. Moreover, more than 60 percent of all online advertising dollars are spent through Facebook and Google combined.
Mountainview-based Google markets a variety of Internet-related products and services, including the world's most popular search engine, which is used for roughly two-thirds of all search queries in the U.S. To date the European Commission has fined Google three times for antitrust violations, concluding that in serving up search results Google extends preferential treatment to its own products and services over those of its competitors.
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