Jun 3, 2019

Tech regulators carve up antitrust turf

The threat level rose for Big Tech in Washington over the weekend, as U.S. antitrust regulators reportedly took steps toward greater scrutiny for Google and Amazon.

Why it matters: These moves could set the table for the kind of long-running antitrust cases that can sap company resources, result in embarrassing legal discovery and depositions, and, in the most extreme scenarios, lead to corporate breakups.

Details:

  1. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have agreed to split up efforts to investigate charges of monopolistic practices by Google and Amazon. DOJ got Google, FTC got Amazon, per the Washington Post and Bloomberg.
  2. DOJ is preparing to launch an investigation into some of Google's practices, per the Wall Street Journal.

Between the lines: It's not uncommon for the agencies to negotiate over who gets to vet which companies and markets, and the move might be a sign of real interest in pursuing the two firms.

  • The FTC had already signaled its intention to look at tech giants with a new task force. What's new is its claim over Amazon.

Yes, but: Claiming the jurisdiction to investigate a company or launching an investigation remains multiple steps away from filing an actual antitrust lawsuit.

The bottom line: There are already numerous investigations into Big Tech, and hundreds of lawmakers are grappling with how to regulate it around the world. A U.S. antitrust case against either Google or Amazon would nonetheless be game changing — if it materializes.

Go deeper

Supreme Court to hear Philadelphia case over same-sex foster parents

Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a high-profile case that could reshape the bounds of First Amendment protections for religion.

Why it matters: The direct question in this case is whether Philadelphia had the right to cancel a contract with an adoption agency that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples. It also poses bigger questions that could lead the court to overturn a key precedent and carve out new protections for religious organizations.

Why Apple may move to open iOS

Photo illustration: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Apple may finally allow iPhone owners to set email or browsing apps other than Apple's own as their preferred defaults, according to a Bloomberg report from last week.

The big picture: Customers have long clamored for the ability to choose their preferred apps, and now Apple, like other big tech companies, finds itself under increased scrutiny over anything perceived as anticompetitive.