Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, Apple Have Monopoly Power, Democrats Recommend Changes

The House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust released its findings and recommendations Tuesday on how to readjust and reform laws for the digital age, after a 16-month investigation into competitive practices at Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Their business practices differ in important ways, but they share common problems, the nearly 450-page report states.

It lays out the Democratic majority staff’s findings from hearings and interviews, along with 1.3 million documents.

The findings conclude that the four big tech companies "enjoyed monopoly power" and suggests that Congress requires changes to antitrust laws that could result in parts of their businesses being separated.

The report even compares the four companies to the kinds of monopolies the U.S. saw in the era “of oil barons and railroad tycoons. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price.”

Each of the four technologies has been cited for enjoying monopoly power in a specific area. 

  • Apple -- distribution of software apps on iOS devices
  • Amazon -- most third-party sellers and many suppliers
  • Facebook -- online advertising and social networking
  • Google -- online search
In one example for Google, the document states that Google dominates the market of digital maps.

"Google Maps can be traced to a series of acquisitions. In September 2003, Google Labs launched 'Search by Location,' a feature that sought to filter search results based on a user’s geographic location. Because Google lacked mapping data, however, the feature stalled. In October 2004, a few months after Google’s IPO, Google acquired Where 2 Technologies, an Australian startup that created web-based dynamic maps. Google soon followed this acquisition with two additional purchases: Keyhole, a firm that used satellite images and aerial photos to create digital-mapping software, and ZipDash, a provider of real-time traffic information captured through GPS. In February 2005, Google launched Google Maps."

All these acquisitions created a monopoly and unfair advantage, according to the document.

Recommendations from the Democratic staff include imposing structural separations and prohibiting dominant platforms from entering adjacent lines of business. Setting up antitrust agencies to presume mergers by dominant platforms to be anticompetitive, shifting the burden onto the merging parties to prove their deal would not harm competition, rather than making enforcers prove it would. Requiring dominant firms to make their services compatible with competitors and allow users to transfer their data. There are others as well.

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