USA tech giants could be subject to antitrust investigation

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The US House of Representatives has launched a probe into digital markets and "anti-competitive conduct" in the tech industry, as news broke of a possible wide-ranging investigation by US regulators.

Earlier in the day, shares of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple dropped significantly after published reports suggested federal authorities are preparing for investigations into anticompetitive behavior by several of the technology giants.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC previously closed an investigation of Google without taking action but now the DOJ will take another look into Google's practices in Search and other areas.

U.S. indexes suffered as a result, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite falling 1.4pc.

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The Justice Department would have to file a lawsuit and convince judges that Google has undermined competition.

Calls for more scrutiny over the business practices of the country's major tech companies has been steadily growing over the past year.

At a Justice Department workshop last month on competition in advertising, Breitbart News Network Chief Executive Larry Solov said a Justice Department antitrust action against Google was the best way to address concerns without "heavy regulation".

Why: Amazon's size makes it a target for lawmakers looking to break up big tech, but more specifically its role as both marketplace and vendor has come under scrutiny. A Google spokesman declined to comment. The FTC declined to comment and Facebook did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

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The FTC is already investigating Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal with the social network bracing itself for fines of up to $5bn (£3.9bn).

Apple is the subject of a European Union investigation into a complaint made by streaming music provider Spotify Technology SA that Apple abuses its power over app downloads.

Some web companies, including Yelp Inc and TripAdvisor Inc, have long complained that Google skews search results and uses its market dominance to unfairly promote its own services over theirs. US antitrust probes more often result in an agreement to change certain business practices.

If a judge does impose penalties on the tech giants, those punishments could include a small fine all the way up to requirements that the companies change their business practices, divest pieces of their businesses, and pay massive fines.

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