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Congress to probe tech giants over suffocation of small businesses

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According to a Bloomberg report, the giants of Silicon Valley are facing an additional investigation into their allegedly anti-competitive behaviour, this time led by the House Small Business Committee.

The committee will investigate if companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are creating an anti-competitive playing field for small businesses. According to Bloomberg, Nydia Velázquez – the New York Democratic Representative who chairs the committee – is planning to invite the companies to send representatives to face questioning in late October or early November.

Velázquez hopes that the inquiry will be a good opportunity for examining how small businesses are coping in a digital landscape dominated by tech giants in a range of areas.

“Chairwoman Velázquez believes that small businesses deserve to compete on a level playing field and hopes the hearing will be an opportunity for the committee to examine how small businesses are faring given the dominance of big tech companies in areas ranging from e-commerce to internet traffic,” Evelyn Quartz, a spokesperson for Valazquez, told Bloomberg.

The inquiry will also give small businesses the opportunity to testify about any challenges they have faced from tech giants. Smaller businesses have described difficulties in competing on platforms owned by these tech giants as they, for instance, frequently change search listing algorithms or aggressively promote their own products.

This behaviour has led Google being fined billions of euros by the European Commission over the course of three anti-trust investigations. In June, the Commission opened an anti-trust investigation into Amazon.

The small handful of tech giants which dominate digital spaces are facing increased scrutiny in the US following years of stratospheric growth and highly valuable acquisitions. This year already, the House Judiciary Antitrust Committee has opened an inquiry into anti-competitive behaviour, including acquisitions and vertical integration; the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission will jointly investigate whether these enormous companies are stifling innovation and competition, and state attorneys of more than a dozen states are engaged in a similar anti-trust investigation into the same tech companies.

Progressive lawmakers and other influential figures have been increasingly proposing more radical action to shatter the dominance of the tech giants. Most notably, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren – a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential candidacy – has laid out a detailed plan which could break up the largest tech giants by designating them as ‘platform utilities’ which could not simultaneously own a platform and compete on that platform. Her proposal has been backed by fellow progressive frontrunner, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

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