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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 KlobucharDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  Hillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food 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 Booker'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis It's in America's best interest to lead global COVID-19 vaccine distribution ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent MORE (D-N.J.), another presidential contender; Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBottom line Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama MORE (D-Vt.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinJohnson says leaving office after 2022 'probably my preference now' Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (D-Wis.); Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyLawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans MORE (D-Mass.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster Senator notices mismatching shoes at trial: 'I had a lot on my mind' 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.