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Justice Department opens wide new antitrust probe of tech platforms

Photo of Attorney General William Barr pursing his lips
Attorney General William Barr. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Justice Department said Tuesday it had launched an inquiry into the market power of major online platforms and whether they "are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers."

Why it matters: While the announcement mentioned no specific companies, its reference to looking at concerns about "search, social media, and some retail services online" would appear to point towards Google, Facebook and Amazon.

What they're saying: “Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general who leads the department's Antitrust Division.

Yes, but: The specifics of the inquiry are still unclear. So is its relationship to a reportedly planned Justice Department investigation into Google — part of a broader deal that split up antitrust authority over major tech companies between the agency and the Federal Trade Commission.