Congress recently announced it will be investigating whether or not big tech companies have become big enough to warrant the enforcement of antitrust laws.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee issued a statement announcing it would be opening an antitrust investigation into Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to determine if the Silicon Valley giants had engaged in illegal anti-competitive behavior. According to the committee, this is the first such investigation of its kind.
“A small number of dominant, unregulated platforms have extraordinary power over commerce, communication, and information online. Based on investigative reporting and oversight by international policymakers and enforcers, there are concerns that these platforms have the incentive and ability to harm the competitive process,” the committee stated in a press release. “The Antitrust Subcommittee will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms. This is the first time Congress has undertaken an investigation into this behavior.”
Antitrust laws stem from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which makes the monopolization of industries a felony. The act was signed into law by former President Benjamin Harrison, and the law was later amended by the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914 (signed into law by Woodrow Wilson). Initially, antitrust laws were aimed at breaking up the railroad monopolies of the late 19th century, as they had cornered the transportation market at the time. In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court invoked the Sherman Act to break up John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly.
This isn’t the first time in recent history that big tech companies have been accused of engaging in anti-competitive behavior. Last month, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the court’s liberal wing in a decision that allowed Apple to be sued under antitrust laws for its monopolizing of the App Store.
“We got an unexpected boost to antitrust enforcement from Justice Kavanaugh,” law professor John Kirkwood of Seattle University said following the announcement of the decision. “There’s more chance of future antitrust enforcement victories.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.