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'A couple of dozen' states are considering an antitrust probe of Big Tech, says DOJ official

Key Points
  • "I think it's probably safe to say more than a dozen. A couple of dozen state attorneys general have expressed an interest in the subject matter," Delrahim says.
  • The Justice Department says in July that it is opening a review into potential antitrust concerns in the technology sector.
  • The department does not name specific companies that are under review, but shares of Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook all slump immediately afterward.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the enforcement of antitrust laws in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill October 03, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

A top antitrust official at the Department of Justice said Tuesday that "a couple of dozen states" are interested in investigating Big Tech for antitrust concerns.

Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for the antitrust division, said a large bipartisan group of state attorneys general spoke to the Justice Department about starting a joint investigation into technology companies.

"I think it's probably safe to say more than a dozen. A couple of dozen state attorneys general have expressed an interest in the subject matter," Delrahim said at the Technology Policy Institute's Aspen Forum.

The Justice Department announced last month that it is opening a review into potential antitrust concerns in the major online platforms, saying the review will "consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online."

The Justice Department did not name specific companies that were under review, but shares of Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook all slumped immediately following the July announcement. The stocks of all three companies were roughly 1% on Tuesday, along with major market indices.

Delrahim said the Justice Department intends to work together with the states on their probe, adding that cooperation benefits all parties involved. There is not a set timeline for the investigation, Delrahim said.

Major technology companies have drawn scrutiny from federal lawmakers and regulators about how they handle user data and disseminate information. The skepticism has spread to new projects, with Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, receiving pushback from Washington soon after it was announced.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the state effort. It is not clear which states would be part of the investigation.

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