The United States House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee has begun to investigate several major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, for alleged violations of antitrust law. The allegations stem from these companies’ dominance of their respective markets, as well as certain alleged anti-competitive practices that allow the companies to keep competitors from encroaching on their market share. A focus in the initial hearing was the impact these companies have had on the news industry, particularly the advertising revenue models of Google and Facebook, which are blamed for a decline in the revenue generated by traditional news media.
The investigation seeks to uncover the business practices of major tech companies, who use their control over what information people see to shape the market and maintain their own dominance and profitability. Aside from the harm this causes to potential competitors in the tech sector, there has also been collateral damage to the news media as a result, with more people using news aggregators (like those maintained by Google, Apple and Facebook) rather than reading directly from news sources. As a result, news organizations have suffered consistent losses, but hardest hit are local news organizations who lack the resources of major players like NBC, Fox News, the New York Times or the Washington Post.
While the investigation itself is big news, what’s surprising is how many other companies have offered to assist the investigation into big tech. The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which represents major retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy, has written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission over concerns about what these tech companies’ practices have done to their businesses. Though their members do have online sales, their business models traditionally rely more on in-person sales at brick-and-mortar stores, which have suffered as a result of growing online sales. RILA has offered to assist the antitrust investigations against these tech companies in any way it can, to avoid further damage to their retail businesses.
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