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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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation 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 BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.), another presidential contender; Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Vt.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Next Congress expected to have record diversity Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (D-Wis.); Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Democrats expand Senate map, putting GOP on defense 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.