House Judiciary Seeks Big Tech Document Drop

The House Judiciary Committee has sent out document requests to Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook as part of its ongoing antitrust investigation into Big Tech. 

The letters seek a raft of info, from their competition in ad sales to customer lists, financial statements, and communications related to various purchases of other companies. 

The committee, on a bipartisan basis, is looking into how Big Tech got so big and whether they have used that size anticompetitively, including by buying up competitors before they got big enough for those purchases to trigger antitrust red flags. 

The Trump Justice Department is looking into the same issue of "whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers," the department said in confirming the investigation back in July.  The Federal Trade Commission is also eyeing Big Tech.

As the committee pointed out in its letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it is looking into 1) competitive problems in digital markets, 2) whether the dominant firms it it investigating are engaged in anticompetitive conduct, and whether current laws and policies are sufficient to address issues of potential restraint of trade and monopolies. 

The letters were signed by the chair and ranking members of the full committee and Antitrust Subcommittee. 

The committee leaders want the documents by no later than Oct. 14. 

Back in June, the committee opened what it billed as "a bipartisan, "top to bottom," investigation into Big Tech and whether it has been allowed to get big anticompetitively. 

Earlier this year, Justce Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim signaled that the fact that edge provider giants like Facebook or Amazon or Google are huge, or even if they are virtual monopolies, is not necessarily an antitrust issue unless they got that monopoly power through anticompetitive means or use that monopoly power anticompetitively. 

That is what Justice and the FTC and Congress are trying to determine. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.