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Department of Justice launches antitrust review of major tech companies

Big tech execs testify on Capitol Hill

The Department of Justice is looking into some of the country's largest tech giants to determine whether they are monopolies that have harmed consumers, the government announced Tuesday.

The DOJ's antitrust division will examine whether large online platforms "are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation or otherwise harmed consumers," it said. While it did not name the "market-leading online platforms," analysts believe that Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google will be among those examined.

"This DOJ report is a 'major shot across the bow' against big tech," analysts at Wedbush said in a note describing the political atmosphere in Washington, D.C. "While this is not a new issue per se, there is growing rhetoric out of the Beltway and from K Street around big tech's grip on e-commerce, digital advertising, the app ecosystem, social media and search."

The news comes on the heels of several widely publicized government settlements with tech companies. Credit-reporting company Equifax agreed to pay nearly $700 million after a breach that exposed the personal data of 150 million Americans. Facebook reportedly reached a with the Federal Trade Commission after allowing third-party developers to gather data from millions of users without their consent or knowledge.

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Oversight Of The Enforcement Of The Antitrust Laws
U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim announced Tuesday that the Justice Department would look into whether U.S. tech giants are acting as monopolies that can harm consumers. "Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands," he said in a statement. / Getty Images

"Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands," Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the DOJ's antitrust division, said in a statement Tuesday. "The Department's antitrust review will explore these important issues."

Amazon and Facebook did not immediately comment to the Associated Press.

Google directed the AP's requests for comments to the testimony that its director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, made to the House Judiciary Committee last week. Cohen reiterated the company's benefits to consumers.

Apple referred to comments from CEO Tim Cook, who told CBS last month he doesn't think "anybody reasonable" would call Apple a monopoly.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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