back to article Bunch of US states said to be preparing fresh antitrust investigation into Google 'n' pals

Several individual US state attorney generals are considering antitrust action against Google and other technology giants, according to The New York Times. The paper's anonymous sources suggested Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are all in their sights. The states have been talking to the Department of Justice, which is …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Making things more complicated

    Um, we're talking about billion-dollar behemoths that don't pay taxes.

    Make their lives difficult, they'll just have to hire more lawyers.

    It's not like they don't have the means to do so.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Making things more complicated

      That is the problem, as long as the cost of the lawyers and fines costs them less than doing business "properly", they won't change their ways until they are forced to do so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Making things more complicated

        As far as the US are concerned, they are paying their taxes. The loophole of keeping the money overseas without bringing it in the US has been terminated by the Trump tax change.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Making things more complicated

          It isn't just the USA, it is everywhere.

          In between 2016 and 2018, ISTR, the got 4 times as much revenue from the UK government advertising with them (a few hundred thousand pounds) as they paid tax in the country. Likewise Amazon makes several milliard in sales in Europe, yet pays next to no tax on it, again, loopholes, but hardly ethical.

          But that isn't the main problem, the main problem is the companies abusing their monopoly positions.

    2. John Tomko

      Re: Making things more complicated

      Please explain your vague and idiotic statement. Thank you

  2. Suricou Raven

    Politics.

    I wonder if this might be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. There are certainly reasons to be concerned about the undue influence held by large technology companies, and about the sometimes underhanded and questionably-legal methods used at times to suppress competition. Care must be taken to ensure that the economy of scale does not turn into a monopoly situation. But I have to wonder... is that the real reason behind this concern? Or are we looking a something much more political: A reaction to a belief now popular among Republican politicians, that Big Tech's claims to be moderating their networks of racist and homophobic content are disproportionately silencing conservative speakers, and this threat to conservative ideology must be opposed?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Politics.

      The problem is that they aren't doing enough to stem the tide of abhorrent content, at least from a non-US, no Republican view.

      But that is the least of the concerns. Their blocking new technologies or using their existing monopolies to squeeze out competition in other areas is the biggest problem at the moment.

      And they just make fun of the authorities at the moment, just look at Google's response to their search dominance. Their solution to accusations of abusing their monopoly on Android to squeeze out other search engines? Ok, we'll charge our competitors for placing them in a list of alternate search engines!

      Or Facebook, receives a 5 milliard dollar fine and their market cap increases by 6 milliard dollars!

      Absolutely brilliant, making money out of being censured. There needs to be a real shake up of the industry, at the moment they are just making a mockery of justice.

    2. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Politics.

      The following are some of the states that are/have been involved in the discussions:

      Florida

      Louisiana

      Mississippi

      New York

      Texas

      ... along with three others.

      Also:

      "Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has said that Amazon, Facebook and Google should be forced to divest companies they have purchased. Other progressives agree with her."

      Does that list fit with the narrative you are trying to concoct?

      1. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Politics.

        For the Clicktard with the down-vote on the above post: What's the matter? Did having to engage with facts for a change offend your cissy Snowflake sensibilities and spoil your twisted view on reality?

  3. batfink Bronze badge

    Natural monopolies

    One of the problems in the tech world is the development of natural monopolies. If one player - let's take Google as an example - provides a noticeably better service than its rivals, then it tends to attract more of the customers, which give it more revenue and greater exposure, leading to even greater dominance. Or, if everybody you know is on Facebook, then you'll join that rather than something else where none of your friends are.

    You can see the same thing in effect at the music download sites. If a song has a lot of hits, it goes to the top of the list, which gains it more hits if people think "there's lots of downloads of that song, it must be good", which gives it even more promotion etc etc. And of course the ones at the bottom of the list continue to be ignored as everyone assumes they must be crap.

    Obviously, this happens in the "real world" as well, but the process is much slower.

    So, the issues is that these large tech companies can very quickly achieve a dominant position. And therefore regulators will struggle to keep up, and will find themselves looking at dealing with monopolies already in place rather than working to prevent these monopolies from developing in the first place.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Natural monopolies

      Very true, although one of the big problems, especially with Google, is they become big in one area and use that dominance to gain an unfair advantage in other areas - this is also very much what Microsoft was found guilty of in the 90s.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Natural monopolies

      One of the problems in the tech world is the development of natural monopolies. If one player - let's take Google as an example - provides a noticeably better service than its rivals, then it tends to attract more of the customers, which give it more revenue and greater exposure, leading to even greater dominance.

      Except that there is nothing whatsoever natural about it.

      Google for instance has simply wiped out all of the competition through buying them up, or persuading nominally different search engines to use their technology behind the box.

      Or, if everybody you know is on Facebook, then you'll join that rather than something else where none of your friends are.

      Which again, is nothing even remotely natural. This is a particular case of a bit of software being deliberately non compatible with anything else to create a monopoly. If you forced facebook to allow sharing facebook wall content via an API with $competitor and vice versa then your "friends" wouldn't be need to be on Facebook to communicate with them, and Facebook wouldn't have a monopoly.

      1. batfink Bronze badge

        Re: Natural monopolies

        Google for instance has simply wiped out all of the competition through buying them up, or persuading nominally different search engines to use their technology behind the box.

        And this is exactly what I mean about the initial advantage leading to greater dominance.

        Which again, is nothing even remotely natural. This is a particular case of a bit of software being deliberately non compatible with anything else to create a monopoly. If you forced facebook to allow sharing facebook wall content via an API with $competitor and vice versa then your "friends" wouldn't be need to be on Facebook to communicate with them, and Facebook wouldn't have a monopoly.

        So your suggested "natural" remedy is for some external agency to force companies to make their product compatible with, and their data available to, all their competitors? To standards set by whom?

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Natural monopolies

          So your suggested "natural" remedy is for some external agency to force companies to make their product compatible with, and their data available to, all their competitors? To standards set by whom?

          That was more an observation than a suggestion.

          The fact that these monopolies exist does not make them invincible juggernauts that inevitably have and can have no competition. The way the monopolies operate is in fact an excellent demonstration of what happens in completely unregulated markets; one large player will take over the market by means fair or foul (usually the latter) and then basically do whatever they please when faced with no competition. You can only end up with a good quality outcome when there is a well regulated market that forces several companies to compete on a tolerably level playing field.

          1. genghis_uk

            Re: Natural monopolies

            Very true which is why Capitalism needs strong regulation to stop runaway monopolies from bringing the system down. (No, this is not government interference with the markets, it is drawing up some ground rules!)

            The problem we have today is the regulators are increasingly being bought by the industry monopolies. The results are all too obvious but the people that can fix it are all enjoying the lifestyle they have become accustomed to... Hopefully this will make a small dent in the downward trajectory - unlikely but it would be nice.

            Lobbyists - should be right up there with lawyers, bankers and the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation when the revolution comes!

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Options

    One option is to treat Fraudbook and Chocolate Factory as public utilities, they can make a profit but they are under government oversight but not necessarily broken up. Apple and Amazon are more interesting cases as the breaking up either really makes no sense as they do not dominate their industries (hardware and retail). Otherwise it split them up and see how the pieces fair.

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Options

      How would the legislation for that work?

      1. Kernel Silver badge

        Re: Options

        Maybe in a similar way that it worked with Ma Bell and the creation of the RBOCs?

        Not being in the US I don't know exactly how well it worked out in practice, but the concept was there.

        1. Jove Bronze badge

          Re: Options

          "Maybe in a similar way that it worked with Ma Bell and the creation of the RBOCs?"

          That only addresses the USA; other nations/supranational bodies - such as the UK, France, the EU want jurisdiction over the operations in their own territories - a USA-focused solution will not work.

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