Senate Democrats press regulators over reported tech investigations

Senate Democrats press regulators over reported tech investigations
© Pool

A group of Democratic senators is demanding answers from the government’s antitrust enforcers about their oversight of the nation’s tech giants after a string of media reports alluded to investigations into companies like Google and Amazon.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) led a group of her colleagues in letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice on Friday, asking for information about the reported probes beyond what had been leaked to the media.

“Many of us have called on both the FTC and the Justice Department to investigate potential anticompetitive activity in these markets, particularly following the significant enforcement actions taken by foreign competition enforcers against these same companies,” the group wrote.

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“When we saw the recent press reports of potential U.S. investigations into these matters, we were encouraged, but also somewhat troubled that such inquiries were not already well underway,” the letter continues. “But given the silence of the FTC and the Justice Department, the truth is that we still do not know if these investigations have actually been initiated and neither do the American people.”

Klobuchar, a 2020 presidential candidate and the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, was joined by Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.), another presidential contender; Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDemocrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Biden: I'll have a running mate picked next week MORE (D-Wis.); Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (D-Mass.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Cook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats On The Money: GOP mulls short-term unemployment extension | White House, Senate GOP strike deal on B for coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.).

Earlier this month, a string of news reports detailed an agreement between the two agencies to divide the responsibilities for antitrust oversight of Silicon Valley, with the FTC reportedly taking the lead on any probes into Facebook and Amazon and the Justice Department handling Apple and Google.

The stories came after months of political pressure from Congress, which has become increasingly frustrated with data privacy scandals and concerned over Big Tech’s potentially anticompetitive effects on the economy.

And the leaks coincided with the House Judiciary Committee’s announcement of a wide-ranging antitrust investigation into Silicon Valley’s giants.

It's still unclear whether the pressure has actually pushed regulators into opening investigations into tech giants or what aspects of their businesses would be under scrutiny.

In the letters sent Friday, the senators asked both agencies to confirm whether they had opened antitrust investigations into each of the companies and to commit to releasing publicly the findings of any such investigation.

An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that the agency received the letter but declined to comment further.

Updated at 5:53 p.m.