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 KlobucharKlobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats   Harris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day 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 BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.), another presidential contender; Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake Bottom line MORE (D-Wis.); Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch Facebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens MORE (D-Mass.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Democratic leaders vow climate action amid divide Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill On The Money — The Democratic divide on taxes 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.