TechNewsWorld, July 25, 2019, with comments from Willy Leichter
A week ago the US Department of Justice stated its intention to begin an antitrust investigation into big tech companies. The DOJ had previously alluded that it was considering taking this action and now it’s official. They haven’t yet mention specific company names but the expected list of suspects includes at least the four digital giants already under scrutiny, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.
The DOJ’s Antitrust Division will conduct this new review, investigating the competitive landscape on the online digital front. They'll look particularly at market leaders, into the realm of social media, search, and retail services. Other agencies are already looking into similar things. The FTC has appointed a task force that will monitor online functions and services, such as online advertising, social networks, mobile operating systems and apps in the US tech industry. Congress is involved too with the House Judiciary Committee announcing last month its own bipartisan “top-to-bottom review” into the large tech platforms.
Businesses, consumers and government officials have been pointing out concerns for quite some time regarding unfair competition in all these areas. Which is not to say there is widespread agreement about where the problems lie or how to address them.
The stated purpose of this investigation is to ensure access to free markets. As the DOJ looks into consumer, business and entrepreneur concerns into online retail, search and social media platforms, the AntiTrust Division has committed to seeking public opinion input. They plan to include those directly involved and affected by competition and in some cases the imbalance in ability to compete between the different online platforms.
One statistic says close to 75 percent (75%) of retailers with 100 or more employees has expressed concern regarding competing with Amazon on price. Retailers of all sizes and fields have grounds to be worried about Amazon in general. Investigators will look at the effect of active users ranking in the millions and even billions who are aligned with 1 or 2 specific companies, forming possible monopolies or duopolies.
The scope of this probe is huge and will undoubtedly take a great deal of time. Concerns are that the research could be biased or become tainted by individual agendas against particular companies. Undoubtedly the companies themselves don’t relish the prospect of being under a microscope.
The breadth of this seems to be enormous, which means it will probably lack depth, focus or meaningful change," remarked Willy Leichter, vice president of marketing at Virsec.
"A thoughtful analysis of actual antitrust issues with e-commerce being increasingly dominated by Amazon might yield useful results," he told TechNewsWorld, "but throw in a jumble of issues with conflicting agendas, and the process will likely devolve into political theater."
On the other hand, "the slow speed of investigations is unlikely to keep up with the growth of big tech and will probably be no more than a speed bump," Virsec's Leichter suggested.
Facebook and Google have been on the hot seat already in part because of their repeated violations to user privacy. They’ve both been fined for these violations. These two companies, along with Amazon, also face antitrust investigations in the EU. Even though fines have been handed out already and some are likely pending, privacy-violating behavior hasn’t improved, often to the detriment of customers.
The scope of the investigation is sweeping, multiple parties are involved and virtually every citizen stands to be impacted by the outcome, whatever it may be. To be done well, the investigators will need deep understanding of online technicalities they may not know anything about. They will need to protect consumers’ rights and objectives and be able to determine what best serves the public while also regulating a fair and prosperous e-commerce marketplace.
Read full DoJ to Examine Big Tech article
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