US Antitrust Report Hints at Plan to Split Up Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple

Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook use their power to control how we see and understand the world, the report says.

If the recommendations of a US House of Representatives panel are accepted, the imperial tech behemoths could just be broken up, plain and silly. The House committee's antitrust report contains a "thinly veiled call to break up" big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Reuters reported.

The agency says it has seen the draft report, wherein Republican Congressman Ken Buck makes the pithy remark that reveals the flavor of the report.

The House Subcommittee for Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law had grilled the CEOs of four major big tech companies - Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple - in July as part of its historic anti-trust hearing in July.

The final report of the subcommittee is likely to be released this week, Reuters added. The draft report mentions Big Tech's practices like 'killer acquisitions', elimination of rivals and self-preferencing.

Tech Antitrust Hearing
All the four CEOs testified via video conferencing YouTube Grab

The report also contains a proposal under which the tech companies will have to mark a 'single line of business'. This is the point that Representative Buck argues against, calling it a direct attempt to break up the companies. For example, Facebook, which is the biggest social media platform, also owns and operates Instagram and WhatsApp, while Google owns YouTube and Android.

"This proposal is a thinly veiled call to break up Big Tech firms. We do not agree with the majority's approach," Buck wrote.

Will this be Implemented?

It's not clear as of now if this recommendation, which has far-reaching consequences, will be implemented. It depends on the breadth of support it enjoys across the aisle in the House. The committee is led by Democratic Chairman David Cicilline, and it's not clear if there's enough bipartisan report that warrants the implementation of this recommendation.

"The report offers a chilling look into how Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have used their power to control how we see and understand the world," Buck added.

If not Break-up, What else is Feasible?

Facebook logo
Facebook Reuters

There are other recommendations that would dilute some of the monopolistic powers the tech majors enjoy. One of the suggestions is to make it easier for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to stop mergers by 'lowering their burden of proof'. This empowers consumers to take control of their data through data portability and interoperability between platforms, the report adds.

Bezos, Cook, Pichai and Zuckerberg Grilled in July

In the July hearing, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai Mark Zuckerberg were grilled for hours at the US House hearing. "This hearing has made one fact clear to me: these companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable ... We need to ensure the antitrust laws first written more than a century ago work in the digital age," ,Cicilline had said at the end of the hearing.

Google faced the most intense scrutiny, including questions such as if it stole content from small businesses. "Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?" the search engine company was asked. Google is abusing its power and using its surveillance over the web traffic to identify competitive threats and crush them, he added.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest charges levelled against Amazon was that it was using third-party seller data for its own gains. It was also accused of systematically crushing businesses that thrive on its platform.

Facebook was also accused of crushing competition by acquiring them, with the Instagram deal cited as an example. Zuckerberg was reminded of a 2012 conversation he had with Facebook's senior engineers wherein he had openly said his policy was to "buy just by any competitive startup."

Related topics : Facebook