As part of what appears to be a broader regulatory probe into major American technology firms, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have reportedly reached a series of agreements assigning jurisdiction over investigations into companies including Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC.
The FTC will have jurisdiction to lead any antitrust investigation into Facebook under an arrangement it has with the U.S. Department of Justice, The Wall Street Journal reported June 3.
The FTC is already investigating Facebook for possibly violating a previous agreement related to the company's privacy practices. The company recently announced that it expects up to a $5 billion fine from the agency over an apparent violation of the agreement. That earlier probe, however, does not delve into questions on whether Facebook is stifling competition in the digital space, according to the Journal.
Meanwhile, Reuters cited two sources on June 3 as saying that the DOJ now has jurisdiction over an antitrust investigation into Apple.
These new reports come on the heels of earlier news that the two agencies agreed to place jurisdiction of Amazon under the FTC while placing Google under the jurisdiction of the DOJ for antitrust matters. Specifically, a task force is reportedly looking into how Google arranges search results, how it integrates its search platform with its other services and its advertising practices.
The news comes at a time of mounting political pressure for the major tech firms. Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts and Democratic candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, unveiled a proposal earlier this year that called for unwinding previously approved mergers from Facebook, Amazon and Google. Other Democratic presidential candidates have put forward their own plans for regulating big tech, while several Republicans have called for a regulatory crackdown on the companies over concerns about censorship and political bias.
Looking ahead, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee also plans to launch its own bipartisan investigation into whether large tech firms engaged in anticompetitive behavior, the committee said June 3. The probe will focus on three areas: documenting competition problems in digital markets; examining whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct; and assessing whether existing antitrust laws and enforcement policies are adequate to address these issues.
"There is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content and communications," committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., added, "As the world becomes more dependent on a digital marketplace, we must discuss how the regulatory framework is built to ensure fairness and competition." He cautioned, however, that it is important for lawmakers to go into the probe without any "predetermined conclusions."