The Robber Baron age of the internet may be coming to a close, with the US Justice Department announcing an investigation into anti-competitive and anti-consumer actions by large technology companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The investigation is aimed at search engines, social media platforms, and retail (ie the companies named above) but will not focus on any particular company or practice, but rather look for potential violations.

The Justice Department said the review “will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.”

While the companies targetted are likely in the crosshairs due to accusations of bias and unfair treatment by Republicans, there has also been a broad consensus by Democrats that technology companies have become too large to be regulated and were actively harming consumers. It remains to be seen if the richest companies in the world are able to escape such attention unscathed.

Read the full press release below:

Justice Department Reviewing the Practices of Market-Leading Online Platforms
Review Focuses on Practices that Create or Maintain Structural Impediments to Greater Competition and User Benefits

The Department of Justice announced today that the Department’s Antitrust Division is reviewing 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’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online. The Department’s Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms, as well as others.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The goal of the Department’s review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want. If violations of law are identified, the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress.

Via The Verge

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