Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simons said Tuesday he remains prepared to break up America’s largest technology companies, even by reversing past mergers, as part of the regulator antitrust investigation into big tech.
FTC Chair Simons told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday that he could break up the ig tech Masters of the Universe, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple, as part of its antitrust investigations.
Simons said that although breaking up one Silicon Valley behemoth could serve as a challenging task, it could become the right method to rein in the most dominant tech companies as well as restoring competition in the technology markets.
Simons said of breaking up big tech, “If you have to, you do it.”
“It’s not ideal because it’s very messy,” the FTC chairman added. “But if you have to you have to.”
The FTC has led a broad antitrust review of the technology sectors to see whether companies, including Facebook, continue to harm competition. The consumer protection agency has reportedly started investigating whether Facebook’s acquisitions, including WhatsApp and Instagram, was part of a business plan designed to take out its competition.
Although some big tech critics may get excited at the prospect of the FTC entertaining breaking up big tech, the FTC has faced sharp criticism from tech experts, lawmakers, and even their own commissioners for their reportedly lax fine against Facebook for violating Americans’ privacy.
The FTC’s $5 billion serves as the largest fine against a tech company for privacy violations, reports have suggested that the FTC caved against Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra called the settlement in July a “terrible precedent,” believing that “breaking the law shouldn’t be profitable.” Chopra also slammed that the FTC settlement with Facebook gave Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, another Facebook executive, “blanket immunity.”
“The settlement fine print gives Facebook broad immunity for ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ violations,” Chopra continued. “What’s covered by these immunity deals? Facebook knows, but the public is kept in the dark.”
“We should all be concerned that the business incentives of big tech platform behavioral advertising spur practices that are dividing our society. When companies break the law and cause massive harm, they need to be held accountable,” the FTC commissioner said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), one of the Senate’s leading tech critics, slammed the FTC settlement, believing that the agency “utterly” failed to penalize Facebook for its privacy violations.
“This is very disappointing,” Hawley said in July. “This settlement does nothing to change Facebook’s creepy surveillance of its own users & the misuse of user data. It does nothing to hold executives accountable. It utterly fails to penalize Facebook in any effective way.”