The report found that the federal agencies tasked with enforcing antitrust laws, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, had failed to properly regulate the companies as they experienced meteoric growth by buying up smaller competitors in the past two decades. And the report said that federal courts at the same time had weakened existing statutes to benefit businesses and had enforced only a price-based consumer welfare standard that the report called outdated.
To counter those trends, the report recommended that Congress reinvigorate its own antitrust enforcement and overhaul existing laws, including the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, to account for the rise of monopolies in the digital marketplace, where services, like those provided by the four companies, are often free to use.
The report — 450 pages long, with more than 2,500 footnotes — and the recommendations constitute a stunning rebuke of Silicon Valley by Democratic antitrust hawks in the nation’s capital whose concern over market dominance in the technology sector has grown since the 2016 presidential election.
Its release marked the culmination of a 16-month investigation by the committee that sought to determine whether Big Tech companies had grown powerful enough to be considered monopolies, and whether 20th-century antitrust laws, meant to ensure competition and protect consumers, remain adequate tools for regulating the 21st century’s rapidly growing technology sector.
And though the investigation, which began last March, was bipartisan, the report only bore the names of House Democrats and their staffers. In the course of the investigation, Republicans questioned technology executives on a host of issues unrelated to antitrust, including allegations of anti-conservative bias and censorship of conservative voices online.