In a flurry of headlines late last week, U.S. government bodies were reported to be looking into antitrust cases against tech giants. The Department of Justice planted its flag in Google on Friday, according to reports, while the Federal Trade Commission seemed keen on Amazon.
As of today, the Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC is also laying claim to an antitrust investigation into Facebook, while Reuters reports the agreement gives the DOJ the purview to probe Apple.
Facebook and Alphabet stocks took about a 7 percent dive this afternoon after the news broke. Amazon dipped a more modest 4.8 percent while Apple stumbled about 1.5 percent at the time of this writing.
Although the DOJ and FTC both have antitrust enforcement powers, handing the reigns to the latter seemed the obvious decision in Facebook’s case given the agency’s history of investigating the social platform. The FTC was previously responsible for charging Facebook with failing to keep user data private in 2011, and its more recent probe into the company’s continued floundering on that front could result in fines of up to $5 billion.
The DOJ, meanwhile, has a history with Apple, finding the company engaged in ebook price fixing—a decision that cost the Tim Cook-led empire a cool $450 million. Apple is currently awaiting the results of two other antitrust cases, one in the U.S. Supreme Court and a more recent one being handled by the European Commission.
It is not presently known if the FTC or DOJ have immediate plans to investigate potential monopolies within Facebook’s or Apple’s vast portfolios—all the current agreement dictates is that if such an investigation arises, we no know which agency will take on the potential cases.
Association with data breaches, election meddling, and ethnic cleansing have made tech giants like Facebook a popular target for criticism from regulators, the press, and politicians. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren has made tech antitrust a cornerstone of her platform; for vastly different reasons, a number of Republican lawmakers have also pushed to limit the power of these firms.