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Top regulators battle to crack down on Big Tech giants

Data: Axios research; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As investigations into tech giants' possible anti-competitive behavior multiply, authorities are beginning to tussle over turf — adding a new potential for discord to the regulatory chess game.

Why it matters: These probes are legally complex and historically difficult to pull off. There's bipartisan support right now for checking Big Tech's power, but the companies have enormous resources and remain popular, and fighting among regulators can only hamper their work.

Driving the news: Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons has written a letter to the Justice Department's antitrust division complaining about the DOJ's behavior in handling disagreements over which agency has the authority to probe Facebook, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) intends to bring up the letter and address the issue at a Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing Tuesday, his office confirmed to Axios.

Be smart: Both agencies have clashed over who has jurisdiction to investigate, particularly Facebook.

  • Earlier this year the two agencies agreed that they would divide up investigations into the companies, with the DOJ taking on Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Apple, and the FTC looking into Facebook and Amazon.
  • Tensions apparently rose in July when the DOJ announced another sweeping investigation into Big Tech platforms for their dominance, a move which reportedly had the FTC concerned that the DOJ would be stepping on its turf to investigate Facebook.

The big picture: A growing list of media investigations are presenting evidence of tech platforms abusing their dominance to promote their own products and services.

  • On Monday, the Journal reported that Amazon has changed its search function to more prominently feature products that are more profitable for the company. Amazon denies the report, saying it features products customers want, "regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners."
  • Last week, a New York Times investigation revealed that Apple-owned apps often top rivals in its own App Store.
  • Friday, the House Judiciary Committee sent Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon lengthy document requests, including executives' private communications, for its own investigation into the companies' practices.

The bottom line: Multiple probes can help regulators cover the vast territory they have set out to explore. But any time and resources they spend fighting each other will only benefit the companies they are seeking to hold accountable.

Go deeper: The growing list of U.S. government inquiries into Big Tech

Editor's note: This story has been updated since publication.