Feds may target Google’s Chrome browser for breakup

Justice Department and state prosecutors investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations are considering whether to force the company to sell its dominant Chrome browser and parts of its lucrative advertising business, three people with knowledge of the discussions said Friday.

The conversations — amid preparations for an antitrust legal battle that DOJ is expected to begin in the coming weeks — could pave the way for the first court-ordered break-up of a U.S. company in decades. The forced sales would also represent major setbacks for Google, which uses its control of the world’s most popular web browser to aid the search engine that is the key to its fortunes.

Discussions about how to resolve Google’s control over the $162.3 billion global market for digital advertising remain ongoing, and no final decisions have been made, the people cautioned, speaking anonymously to discuss confidential discussions. But prosecutors have asked advertising technology experts, industry rivals and media publishers for potential steps to weaken Google’s grip.

DOJ is separately preparing an antitrust suit accusing Google of abusing its control on the online search market, which the department could file as soon as next week. Targets of that complaint are expected to include the ways Google uses its Android mobile operating system to help entrench its search engine, POLITICO reported last week.

Spokespeople for Google and the Justice Department declined to comment Friday.

The expected litigation comes as Google and fellow tech industry heavyweights Facebook, Amazon and Apple are facing growing scrutiny from both Republicans and Democrats in Washington for issues such as their squashing of competitors, treatment of users’ private data and handling of disinformation in the presidential race.

One major question facing the prosecutors in both suits: What fixes should they seek to curb Google’s power?

In the advertising investigation, DOJ and

House Antitrust Report Targets Big Tech Monopoly Power And Urges Breakup

The House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee this week released the 400-page findings of its 16-month investigation into the “state of competition in the digital economy.”

The predetermined results cited a “clear and compelling need” to “strengthen antitrust enforcement and consider a range of forceful options, including structural separations and prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct” against the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google.

The use of the word “force” is telling, given the voluntary nature of markets and consumer choice.

Antitrust regulation is a prominent illustration of how unhinged and concentrated hyper-regulatory power, not just spending authority, enables and encourages massive compulsory transfers of wealth by government. Every generation or so we go through the motions of “modernizing” antitrust only to invent complex new rationales reviving it for every major new frontier sector because, this time, we really mean it, it’s really different and government needs to step in.

Market actors today find themselves accused by so-called trustbusters of being too big, reducing consumer welfare, raising rivals’ costs, and—in the latest iteration—of doing other bad things like interfering with free speech.

In a release accompanying the new report, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nader (D-New York) proclaimed, “As they exist today, Apple
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, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy. In recent years, each company has expanded

House Panel Urges Tech Giant Breakup in Plan Republicans Shunned

(Bloomberg) — A House panel proposed far-reaching antitrust reforms to curb the power of U.S. technology giants including Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, culminating a 16-month investigation with a damning 449-page report that Republicans largely shunned.



David Cicilline looking at the camera: Representative David Cicilline a Democrat from Rhode Island and chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.


© Bloomberg
Representative David Cicilline a Democrat from Rhode Island and chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

The recommendations from the House antitrust subcommittee represent the most dramatic proposal to overhaul competition law in decades, and could lead to the breakup of tech companies if approved by Congress.

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The findings target four of the biggest U.S. tech companies — Amazon, Google, Facebook Inc., and Apple Inc. — describing them as gatekeepers of the digital economy that can use their control over markets to pick winners and losers. The companies have abused their power to snuff out competitive threats, leading to less innovation, fewer choices for consumers and a hobbled democracy, the report said.

“Companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” the panel’s Democratic leaders said. “These firms have too much power, and that power must be reined in and subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement. Our economy and democracy are at stake.”

Facebook fell more than 1% in late trading after the report’s release. Amazon and Apple slipped less than 1% and Google was unchanged.

The staff report’s most consequential recommendation is for Congress to consider legislation that would prevent tech companies from owning different lines of businesses, which could lead to a mandate to break them up.

“Their ability both to use their dominance in one market as

U.S. House’s antitrust report hints at break-up of Big Tech firms: lawmaker

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives antitrust report on Big Tech firms contains a “thinly veiled call to break up” the companies, Republican Congressman Ken Buck said in a draft response seen by Reuters.

The House antitrust subcommittee is expected to publish its report this week on Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Google owner Alphabet Inc.

A Buck representative confirmed to Reuters the authenticity of the draft response, which was first reported by Politico.

In the draft, Buck said he shared Democratic concerns about the power of Big Tech firms, with their penchant for “killer acquisitions” to eliminate rivals and self-preferencing in guiding customers to their other products.

However, he objected to a plan to require them to delineate a clear “single line of business”. Social media platform Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, search engine provider Google’s businesses include YouTube and Android, and e-commerce leader Amazon operates a massive cloud computing unit.

“This proposal is a thinly veiled call to break up Big Tech firms. We do not agree with the majority’s approach,” Buck wrote.

It is not yet known how many Republicans will support the report, which is being led by Democratic Chairman David Cicilline. Reports and recommendations with bipartisan support usually have a bigger impact.

“The report offers a chilling look into how Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have used their power to control how we see and understand the world,” Buck wrote.

He agreed with some of the report’s recommendations, such as making it easier for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to stop mergers by lowering their burden of proof, and allowing consumers to take control of their data through data portability and interoperability between platforms.

“These potential changes need not be dramatic to be effective,” Buck

House Panel to Seek Breakup of Tech Giants, GOP Member Says

(Bloomberg) — A House panel led by Democrats investigating competition in the technology sector is poised to propose sweeping reforms to block giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. from both owning marketplaces and selling their own products on them, according to a critique of the recommendations by one Republican member of the subcommittee.



Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., top right, Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., top center, Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc., bottom left, and Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center left, are displayed on a monitor while swearing in during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.


© Bloomberg
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., top right, Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., top center, Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc., bottom left, and Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center left, are displayed on a monitor while swearing in during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

The critique and the panel’s report are still drafts and the contents of both could change. It’s not clear which members will endorse the report, whose release has been delayed because of last-minute information regarding Facebook Inc., CNBC reported earlier. The report was expected this week, but it’s been pushed back, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The recommendations, which would represent the most dramatic overhaul of competition law in decades if approved, are the result of a yearlong investigation by the House antitrust panel led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline. That probe is coming to its conclusion as federal and state antitrust enforcers are also investigating Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook.

Cicilline’s recommendations would include what he has called a Glass-Steagall law for technology platforms, according to the draft discussion paper from Republican Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, which was reported on earlier by Politico and obtained by Bloomberg. Buck said that recommendation and some others in the staff report would be “non-starters” for the GOP. Glass-Steagall refers to the