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 Jean KlobucharBiden leads Sanders by 7 in new national poll Sanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions 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 BookerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Booker ahead of Trump impeachment trial: 'History has its eyes on us' MORE (D-N.J.), another presidential contender; Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE (D-Vt.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Trump's China deal is a gift to Wall Street and Beijing MORE (D-Wis.); Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyParnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mass.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSix mayors making a difference Klobuchar releases names of bundlers Living in limbo may end for Liberians in the US 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.