Tech

AG Barr's promise to probe Big Tech does the unthinkable — unites Democrats and Republicans

Key Points
  • Both sides of the political aisle are doubling down on concern over Big Tech amid a Justice Department probe.
  • As the 2020 Presidential elections get closer and the Democratic candidates gear up for their second debate next week, criticism of Big Tech runs across the aisle
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Jim Bourg | Getty Images

Only Big Tech could bring together Bill Barr and Elizabeth Warren.

Republicans and Democrats alike are doubling down on their criticism of Big Tech after U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced late Tuesday that the Department of Justice will open a broad antitrust review of big tech companies. He didn't name names, but shares of Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook traded lower on the news.

As the 2020 Presidential elections get closer and the Democratic candidates gear up for their second debate next week, criticism of Big Tech runs across the aisle — even if the specifics differ. The most outspoken Democrats primarily argue that the big platforms stifle fair competition, while Republicans have loudly complained about anti-conservative bias.

"They're politically caught in the crosshairs," said Brian Yacktman, founder of YCG Investments, which oversees over $750 million and owns shares of Facebook and Alphabet. "What's bipartisan is that people are concerned about companies having too much power and too much control over data so they want regulation."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are among those with divergent views on practically everything, except when it comes to criticizing Big Tech. Politicians were quick to express their views after Tuesday's DOJ announcement.

"Big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google wield enormous, monopolistic power," Elizabeth Warren tweeted following Barr's statement. "I've been saying that we need to #BreakUpBigTech for a long time and I support a legitimate antitrust investigation into these companies."

Another presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), reacted to the DOJ investigation stating, "For some time, I have been calling on the antitrust agencies to look into anticompetitive practices by the large online platforms as well as for increased transparency."

Klobuchar is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. "The American people deserve to know whether these tech giants are unlawfully stifling competition and how our laws and enforcers can encourage innovation while protecting consumers," she added.

On the Republican side, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri thanked Barr for following through with promises he made to look into big tech companies at his confirmation hearings earlier this year.

"In January, AG Barr gave me his commitment that he would take Big Tech antitrust concerns seriously," Hawley wrote. "Glad to see he's following through."

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), a former venture capitalist, said that while he supports fair competition among businesses, "The mission of the Justice Department is fact-based, and I hope that its review will be driven by facts and the dynamics of these markets, rather than by outside political considerations."

Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, who spearheaded efforts that led to the government's case against Microsoft in the 1990s, told CNBC last month that wide-ranging skepticism has left big tech companies like Google without political shelter.

"I've been taking companies to Washington where they've complained about Google for a long time and there were politicians blocking it once, but the blockers aren't there anymore," he said.

Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities, echoed that sentiment.

"Big Tech already has a bullseye on its back from both sides of the aisle going into the 2020 elections so the rhetoric is only going to continue to increase," he said.

WATCH: DOJ officially launches antitrust probe

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DOJ to open broad antitrust review of big tech firms