Attorney General (AG) nominee William Barr said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday that he’s interested in “reassessing” or learning more about the DOJ’s anti-trust policies regarding the Silicon Valley “behemoths.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, asked Barr his thoughts on anti-trust.
I’d like to know your view on this, are you a believer that big is bad mentality or do you drive more to the mentality that anti-trust laws are there to protect consumers and should focus on consumer welfare and prices that consumers face?
Barr responded, saying that he remains interested in “reassessing” or learning more about the DOJ’s anti-trust policies regarding the Silicon Valley giants, especially considering how they became so dominant under the current anti-trust enforcers, which includes the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Yes, I mean generally that’s where I stand that is the purpose of anti-trust law obviously is to protect competition and competition ultimately that rebounds to consumer benefits. At the same time, I’m sort of interested in stepping back and reassessing or learning more about how the anti-trust division has been functioning and what their priorities are. I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of anti-trust enforcers.
“And you can win that market share without violating anti-trust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic,” Barr added.
Barr’s comments arise as many conservatives and populists have called for greater scrutiny into America’s dominant technology companies. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), as well as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have railed against the social media giants’ anti-conservative bias.
Facebook and Google have inflamed controversy in the past for their anticompetitive practices. When review website Yelp would not sell to Google in 2009, Google decided to scrape Yelp’s search results and displayed them directly on Google. Yelp complained to both the FTC and Google; however, Google said the only recourse was to remove Yelp from the search engine.
Luther Lowe, a vice president at Yelp, stated, “We still exist, but Google did everything it could to ensure that we’d never present a threat to them. It’s bullying, but they’re the 800-pound gorilla.”
In April, Zuckerberg defended his company’s dominant status online by claiming that Facebook competes with at least eight major apps, although Facebook owns or imitates a version of each app that supposedly competes with his company.
President Donald Trump has called out Google, Twitter, and Facebook’s anti-conservative bias and threatened them investigation and regulation.
“I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful,” Trump said in August. “It is not fair to large portions of the population.”
Trump also said that the social media companies were “silencing millions of people” and could find themselves in a “very anti-trust situation.”