WASHINGTON — Big Tech is about to become big politics in Washington.
The House Judiciary Committee is launching its investigation into the market dominance of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, starting with a look at the impact of the tech giants’ platforms on news content, news organizations and advertisers.
News media associations and journalism groups accuse the tech giants of jeopardizing the industry’s economic survival by putting out news content on their platforms without paying for it. They will make their case against the companies at today’s hearing of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.
The big tech companies “have gained a monopolistic position that lets them dominate the digital advertising marketplace and distribute massive amounts of content from news publishers on their platforms without paying to produce the content,” the Save Journalism Project said in a statement.
Stepping ahead of the criticism, Google’s vice president of news Richard Gringas said the company has “worked for many years to be a collaborative and supportive technology and advertising partner to the news industry.”
“Every month, Google News and Google Search drive over 10 billion clicks to publishers’ websites, which drive subscriptions and significant ad revenue,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
In a Capitol steeped in partisanship, inflamed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Democrats’ intensifying probes of President Donald Trump, the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation of tech market power stands out. Not only is it bipartisan, but it’s also the first such review by Congress of a sector that for more than a decade has enjoyed haloed status and a light touch from federal regulators.
With regulators at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission apparently pursuing antitrust investigations of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, and several state attorneys general exploring bipartisan action of their own, the tech industry finds itself in a precarious moment — with the dreaded M-word increasingly used to describe their way of doing business.
“These are monopolies,” Rep. David Cicilline said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, who heads the antitrust subcommittee and is leading the hearing, vowed that the panel will broadly investigate the digital marketplace and “the dominance of large technology platforms,” with an eye toward legislative action to increase competition.
“We know the problems; they’re easy to diagnose,” Cicilline said. “Shaping the solutions is going to be more difficult.”
Politicians on the left and right have differing gripes about the tech giants. Some complain of aggressive conduct that squashes competition. Others perceive a political bias or tolerance of extremist content. Still others are upset by the industry’s harvesting of personal data.
Several Democratic presidential candidates think they have the solution: breaking up the companies on antitrust grounds. Cicilline has called that “a last resort,” but the idea has currency with both major political parties, including at the White House.
Trump noted the huge fines imposed by European regulators on the biggest tech companies.
“We are going to be looking at them differently,” he said in an interview Monday on CNBC.
“We should be doing what (the Europeans) are doing,” Trump said. “Obviously, there is something going on in terms of monopoly.”
The tech giants have mostly declined to comment on the antitrust investigations.