US Big Tech antitrust investigation ramps up with internal document request

16 Sep 2019

Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have all been asked to turn over internal documents as part of a growing antitrust investigation.

The latest development in the US antitrust investigation into Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook has seen all four tech giants asked to turn over internal documents.

Leaders from the House judiciary committee and its subcommittee on antitrust sent letters to the companies on Friday requesting communications to and from eight executives at Amazon, as well as 14 at Apple, 14 at Google and 15 at Facebook.

Future Human

The letters all explain that the focus of the investigation is to examine: “Competition problems in digital markets; whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct online; and whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues.”

The letters also ask each company to submit “all information” regarding each firm’s respective US market share for its broad array of services and a list of its top 10 competitors.

In the case of Facebook, the documents also request an explanation for its the decision to cut off Vine, Voxer, Stackla and other apps from its social graph.

‘Significant escalation’

Meanwhile, Alphabet CEO Larry Page has been asked to report on whether any discrepancies exist between how Google treats Chrome versus how it treats rival browsers, as well as the prevalence of ad fraud on Google’s ad tech properties.

Amazon has been asked, among other things, about its discussions with book publishers, including but not limited to negotiations between 2009 and 2015 on whether to interfere with the availability of any publisher’s book on Amazon and whether the company’s algorithm was ever organised in a way that placed greater business pressure on these publishers.

Amazon has also been asked for details of many of its notable acquisitions, including the acquisition of online booksellers such as BookDepository and AbeBooks.

These communications demonstrate the depth of the scrutiny that these firms will soon be under and are accompanied by threats of subpoenas if the companies fail to comply.

William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University and former chair of the Federal Trade Commission, said to The New York Times: “Those interrogations take on an entirely different tone. This is a significant escalation of the process.”

Amazon app icon. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic