At least 20 states are moving forward with their plans for a bipartisan antitrust investigation into big tech companies.
People familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal that the investigation is expected to be formally launched next month.
Although the exact number of states taking part in the investigation is not known yet, attorneys general from New York, North Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas have expressed interest.
“The attorneys general involved have concerns over the control of personal data by large tech companies and will hold them accountable for anticompetitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data,” said a spokesman for Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Democratic Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood added in a statement that he continues “to be concerned with the aggregation of data in the hands of a few and [I] am always watchful of any monopoly.”
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that a number of attorneys general had met to discuss “the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet.”
While bipartisan efforts are moving forward, the vice president of NetChoice, a trade association of businesses, expressed disappointment in the plans, calling it a “tech witch hunt.”
“There is no case for antitrust. The marketplace is robust with competition and it’s incongruous that direct competitors can all simultaneously be monopolies,” Carl Szabo told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Antitrust enforcement is a tool to ensure competition, not a weapon to attack businesses you don’t like,” Szabo said. “If AGs ignore facts and convert antitrust enforcement from an objective standard to a subjective one, it will create a dangerous political weapon that should scare all businesses.”
Reputation Management Consultants Chairman Eric Schiffer said any bipartisan efforts probably will not have much effect.
“There are components of what big tech does that can be extremely anti-competitive. However, the way the antitrust laws are written make it difficult for attorneys general to effectuate much change,” he said.
“For instance, Facebook controls significant social media in the U.S. But the way antitrust laws are written, because it is free and because of the structure the business is set up, that antitrust laws will be difficult to curtail.”
The Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation of its own July 23.
“The goal of the Department’s review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective a fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies on the merits to provide services that users want,” the DOJ said in a media release.
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division said, “Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands.”
State and federal officials are working together but have not officially joined forces at this time.
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