Facebook is the latest tech giant to face antitrust probe


Facebook owns 4 of the top 10 apps of the past decade
Google was targeted earlier this month as well.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly preparing an antitrust investigation into Facebook. This comes the same month that U.S. attorneys general revealed plans to probe Google for antitrust violations.

No Facebook investigation has been announced yet. But a “person familiar with the matter” says that is going to happen. This would be the fourth recent antitrust probe of Facebook — and the latest example of the growing pushback against tech giants.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also investigating Facebook. Facebook recently paid $5 billion for sharing data from 87 million users with British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

It is not entirely clear what the focus will be of investigations into Facebook. However, it could relate to the number of companies it has acquired. Facebook has bought close to 90 companies since 2003. This could count as squashing potential competition.

Apple and Amazon could be next

Both Amazon and Apple have also been mentioned in possible antitrust discussions, but no investigations have been revealed. However, House Judiciary Committee leaders recently asked Tim Cook to turn over his emails and other information as part of a possible antitrust investigation.

A frequent criticism of Apple is its dominance through the App Store. Recently, senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted that Apple has, “too much power.” In 2016, Warren accused Apple of using the App Store to hinder competition.

In March, Spotify filed a complaint with European regulators. Spotify complained about the way that Apple charges it money for selling subscriptions through the App Store. Third-party app developers who produce screen time-tracking tools have also hit out at Apple over its Screen Time feature.

In the past, Apple has faced antitrust scrutiny for so-called price fixing in the iBooks store.

Should Apple be next?

Personally, I think that Apple has the least of the four tech giants to worry about in terms of antitrust. Apple is a $1 trillion tech giant, but it is not the dominant company in any of its major businesses.

Android is more widely used than iOS. It also has its own app distribution platform, the Google Play store. This is available to anyone who doesn’t want to sell things through the App Store.

Still, the current trend of antitrust investigations into tech companies that were previously shielded from such investigations is certainly going to worry a few folks in Silicon Valley.

Do you think it’s time for an antitrust investigation? Is one tech giant flouting the laws particularly egregiously? Lets us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: Reuters