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FTC to review past acquisitions by tech firms

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday announced it is reviewing a decade’s worth of acquisitions by the country’s largest technology firms, allowing the agency to home in on whether companies like Facebook and Google harmed competition as they gobbled up hundreds of smaller rivals.

The agency is requesting a slew of documents from Facebook, Google, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon as it works to learn more about the “terms, scope, structure, and purpose” of the many acquisitions the companies have made since 2010. The review process will allow the FTC to probe the litany of smaller acquisitions that enabled the Big Tech firms to become global powerhouses over the past decade.

“Digital technology companies are a big part of the economy and our daily lives,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition.” 

“This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers,” he said. 

Tech-focused consumer advocates for years have pressed the FTC to issue these document requests, called 6(b) orders, in an effort to force the companies to turn over information about how they amassed enormous power and influence, sometimes at the disadvantage of smaller players. 

The decision on Tuesday was unanimous, marking a moment of party unity in a commission that has often been divided over how to take on the largest technology companies. Democratic FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra in particular has been pushing for a 6(b) study, telling a congressional panel last year that it could help the agency “get the data we need to effectively police these markets and report our findings to the public.” 

In a joint statement, the Democratic commissioners said they “commend” the FTC for using its authority to probe technology mergers and urged the commission to launch similar studies into the tech companies’ privacy and data security practices.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

This developing report will be updated

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