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Well, we could ruin Big Tech, but only if we really, really wanted or something



FTC Leader Joe Simons.
Photo: Jose Luis Magana (AP)

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons acknowledged in an interview on Tuesday that perhaps, just maybe, the result of an FTC workforce investigation into technology giants violating competition laws forcing them to break up into smaller companies, according to reports in Reuters and Bloomberg.

Like Facebook, they probably aren't shaking in their bootsies yet. Simons – who may have his hands tied to the ongoing status of the agency's broad review of the tech sector, but whose agency was accused of coding Facebook in a recent privacy regulation – more or less just acknowledged that it was technically in his power to pursue sexual intercourse.

"If you must, do it," Simons told Bloomberg. "It's not ideal because it's very messy. But if you have to, you have to do it."

As Bloomberg noted, the FTC working group seemed particularly interested in whether Facebook secured its current form as a worldwide behemoth by purchasing up the subsidiaries such as Instagram and WhatsApp for the sole purpose of eliminating competition. The Department of Justice has launched its own antitrust investigation into the technology sector that appears to overlap with the FTC, although Simons provided a few details on how agencies coordinated.

" It is certain that we could investigate the same company at the same time, but only for different behavior, "Simons told Bloomberg.

However, he reiterated to Bloomberg that Facebook's acquisition of Instagram of 2012 is a particularly open question to the FTC from now on:

Simons didn not confirm the details of the Facebook investigation beyond what the company revealed in July, when it said the FTC had launched a wide probe into more e business areas – social media, digital advertising and mobile applications. Any investigation of previous acquisitions would focus on what would have happened to these companies if they had not been purchased by Facebook, Simons said.

"It's a matter of what made Instagram as successful as it is," Simons said. "Was it the fact that the seed was already there and it was going to germinate no matter what or was the seed germinated because Facebook got it?"

The consolidation of the technology sector in recent years and increasing hostility toward companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in DC appear to have raised questions of scale and competition, and both leading Democratic candidates for the presidency such as Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump's administration has urged regulators to step in. In the case of Trump, anger is clearly more to do with conspiratorial and baseless accusations that technology companies are secretly supporting Democrats than it is … some other consistent motive.) But there is reason to be skeptical if this is just talk or the FTC. and DOJ investigations will actually result in sexual intercourse anytime soon.

As Verge noted, the growing backlash to technical consolidation follows a long period when competition ition and antitrust watchdogs did basically nothing to stop it – and the pendulum just swings back slowly in the other direction. In June, New Street Research analyst Blair Levin told the information that "it will probably take at least a year and a half to realize some concrete action and consistent thinking on these things, which means the next presidential administration.

[Bloomberg/Reuters]


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