House Judiciary launches antitrust investigation into tech giants

The House Judiciary Committee is launching a bipartisan investigation into whether large tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are using their vast market power to suppress competition.

The panel's Democratic and Republican leaders announced the investigation, which will address the question of whether Congress should pass more stringent antitrust laws to rein in Silicon Valley, on Monday.

"The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Collins accusing Democrats of 'tearing down a world leader' GOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications."

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"Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws," he added.

The investigation will be the first Congress has ever conducted into how Silicon Valley's dominant platforms wield their vast market power. The probe will include a series of hearings and will give lawmakers an opportunity to seek information from the companies about their practices through requests and subpoenas.

The committee said the probe would focus on three areas: documenting where competition is lacking in digital markets, exploring whether large companies are suppressing competition, and determining whether Congress and regulators need to do more to address Big Tech's dominance.

"As tech has expanded its market share, more and more questions have arisen about whether the market remains competitive," Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, said in a statement. "Our bipartisan look at competition in the digital markets gives us the chance to answer these questions and, if necessary, to take action."

The news comes as regulators are also reportedly setting themselves up for a broad investigation into Silicon Valley. In recent days, media outlets have reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agreed to divvy up the largest tech companies into their respective jurisdictions.

The FTC would reportedly have the responsibility of investigating Facebook and Amazon, while the DOJ could pursue Google and Apple. It's unclear whether there are any investigations in the works, but the reports sent the companies' stocks tumbling Monday.

If Congress decides that the rules need changing, tech companies could have even more to fear.

"This is the first time there’s been an investigation of this magnitude in decades, and frankly it’s long overdue," Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote Comey, Schiff to be interviewed by Fox's Chris Wallace MORE (D-R.I.), who chairs the Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, told reporters on Monday.

Updated Monday at 5:55 p.m.

Scott Wong contributed.