Attorney General William Barr, no stranger to courting both political momentum and an approving presidential back-slap, used the announcement of the Federal Trade Commission’s $5 billion fine against Facebook as an opportunity for both. As media outlets were digesting Facebook’s settlement, Barr announced the Department of Justice will also open an antitrust review of America’s biggest tech companies.
Meanwhile, other Trump administration officials are inserting themselves into the president’s ongoing, and seemingly one-sided, battle with Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. In an interview with CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin praised the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation into the tech giants, including Amazon.
He was asked: “Do you believe that these big companies, the Facebooks and the Googles, the Apples, and the Amazons of the world, are hurting competition?”
“I think it’s very good that the attorney general is going to look into this,” Mnuchin responded. “It’s an important issue, and I look forward to him reporting back to the president and hearing his recommendations. If you look at Amazon, although there are certain benefits, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States. There’s no question they’ve limited competition. There are areas where they’ve really hurt small businesses.”
As for Barr and the Justice Department, a July 23 press statement says the planned review will “look at 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 investigation will also consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs “have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.”
“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.”
Beyond that, details were sparse. Neither Barr, nor his staff, has named companies that will face the review.