Big Tech and the Antitrust Authority: Where Things Are

The US antitrust proceedings against Google are just one of several measures in the US against the massive companies that are increasingly dominating parts of the economy.

Even if the massive case against Google runs through the system, Amazon, Apple and Facebook could be in the crosshairs of the supervisory authorities.

When Google announced the lawsuit, a Justice Department official said that the agency’s review of Internet platforms was still ongoing.

“Today’s review marks a milestone, but not a breakpoint,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

The combined value of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, based on share price, has more than tripled in the past five years to more than $ 5.4 trillion (approximately Rs.3.98.09.259 billion), and companies have weathered the economic impact of the pandemic better than most.

A recent House panel report accused the four big tech companies of operating as “monopolies” and called for sweeping changes to antitrust laws and enforcement.

Research into how fair US tech giants operate is being conducted by antitrust authorities in the US and elsewhere.

Here is a summary of the main issues:

Google

The blockbuster lawsuit filed by the US government on Tuesday accuses Google of maintaining an “illegal monopoly” on online search and advertising.

The lawsuit alleges that Google’s actions exclude competitors and suggests that the court consider a number of remedial measures, including a possible separation, but few details were offered.

Minor gamblers on the internet have complained that Google is biased into recommending their own services such as maps, travel booking, and business reviews that can be used to generate money through ads or transactions.

Google countered that it was trying to get the best results for online queries and that users could use other readily available search engines.

Google controls around 90 percent of the search and, together with Facebook, dominates the lucrative market for digital advertising.

US concerns about possible anti-competitive practices go back at least eight years when a Federal Trade Commission investigation ended and Google promised to change its course of action.

Google, the largest unit of parent company Alphabet, has faced antitrust investigations in Europe related to its purchasing, advertising and management of Android, the dominant mobile operating system.

Apple

The complaints against Apple relate to the App Store, which charges 30 percent of the subscription fees for most third-party services.

Some developers say that Apple takes too much of its revenue and has strict policies that can affect services that rival those of the iPhone manufacturer. Fortnite manufacturer Epic Games has taken Apple in court about practice.

Streaming music giant Spotify filed a complaint with EU authorities alleging that Apple used its platform to unfairly promote its own Apple Music service.

Apple has argued that its App Store ships billions to independent developers and that its practices are reasonable compared to other digital marketplaces.

Amazon

According to research company eMarketer, Amazon is the undisputed market leader in online retail and accounts for around 40 percent of US e-commerce sales.

Aside from Amazon’s size, the relationship with third party vendors on its marketplace platform has caught the attention of regulators.

At least one report indicates that Amazon improperly used data from market sellers to develop its own competing products, a fee the company has denied.

Some critics of the company argue that companies like Amazon and Apple are not allowed to own the “platform” while competing with others in the area, but such a restriction would require legislation.

Facebook

Facebook is the leading social network and, with its core platform together with Instagram and the messaging services WhatsApp and Messenger, reaches almost three billion people worldwide.

An estimated seven in ten adults in the United States use Facebook, and its reach enables it to play an oversized role in digital advertising, news and information delivery.

While many of the complaints about Facebook relate to its handling of content such as political misinformation and hate speech, some activists say Facebook was allowed to stifle competition by buying smaller rivals and that this could form the basis of an antitrust lawsuit.

A 2010 Federal Trade Commission review of the acquisitions could potentially “close” some of the deals.


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