The Federal Trade Commission chairman said he is prepared to break up big tech if his agency finds that the companies have been hurting competition.
Chairman Joe Simons is leading the FTC’s review of technology companies, like Google and Facebook, and said that even though breaking up big tech would be difficult, it might be necessary.
“If you have to, you do it,” he told Bloomberg. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to, you have to.”
The FTC is considering breaking up these companies by rolling back previously approved mergers if they are found to be anticompetitive.
For example, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.
“There’s a question about what caused Instagram to be as successful as it is,” Simons said. “Was it the fact that the seed was already there and it was going to be germinated no matter what, or was the seed germinated because Facebook acquired it?”
Facebook announced in a July media release that the FTC was conducting an antitrust investigation into the company, Fox News reported.
“The online technology industry and our company have received increased regulatory scrutiny in the past quarter,” the company said. “In June 2019, we were informed by the FTC that it had opened an antitrust investigation of our company.
“In addition, in July 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it will begin an antitrust review of market-leading online platforms.”
As part of its investigations, the FTC fined Facebook $5 billion to “hold the company accountable for the decisions it makes about its users’ privacy,” according to an FTC news release.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division is also investigating big tech companies for concerns about search practices as well as the possibility of harming competition.
“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division said, according to Fox News.
Simmons said it could be possible for a company to be investigated by both the FTC and the Justice Department at the same time but for different conduct.
Although lawmakers, like 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have supported breaking up big tech, the investigations have had their critics.
“It is bizarre to take these enormously complicated institutions and enterprises and have two separate teams of analysts looking at the same enterprise,” former FTC commissioner William Kovacic told Bloomberg.
“It will be a source of real frustration and confusion for the companies if that’s how they’re dividing things unless there’s cooperation.”
Colin Pape, the founder of the decentralized search engine Presearch, said that big tech companies have had the opportunity to regulate themselves, and it is becoming more necessary for the government to step in, Digital Trends reported.
“They have had plenty of opportunities to police themselves, and they have frequently done the opposite and done everything in their power to get away with as much as possible that’s in their own interest and not necessarily in the interest of their user base,” he said.
The Western Journal has reached out to Facebook for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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