US readies antitrust probe of tech titans

The investigation could be launched in September, WSJ report states

Top prosecutors from a group of US states are readying a joint investigation into whether major technology firms have violated antitrust law, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The alliance of state attorneys general could formally announce next month that they are delving into whether leading internet firms and technology platforms have used their clout to thwart competition, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The news follows a US Department of Justice announcement last month in which it was stated that it 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." And that investigation, in the meantime, followed the Federal Trade Commission in February forming a task force to monitor competition among tech platforms. 

It comes as lawmakers and activists have raised concerns about the growing dominance of online giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon in key segments of the digital economy. Once seen as the darlings of Washington, Silicon Valley firms have become targets for politicians of all stripes. US regulators even recently imposed a record $5bn fine on Facebook for lapses in privacy and data protection, including the leaking of private data for political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

But US tech giants have also faced recent antitrust scrutiny in Russia, the EU and Australia.  In response, tech firms and their backers deny monopolistic conduct and argue the fast-evolving digital economy has robust competition and has led to lower prices and more choice for consumers.

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