FILE - In this April 10, 2018, file photo Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes his seat to testify before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, that the Federal Trade Commission will allege that Facebook misled users about its privacy practices as part of an expected settlement.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Latest: Expert says tech probe means new legal standard

July 23, 2019 - 2:50 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on U.S. regulation of technology companies (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

An antitrust expert believes a Justice Department investigation into whether major technology companies are abusing their market power may prompt regulators to interpret the law in new ways.

The probe announced Tuesday will include an examination into whether powerful companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon have been stifling innovation and competition.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Herbert Hovenkamp says one possible way the companies have been doing that is by collectively buying hundreds of startups in recent years to devour their technology and prevent them from growing into formidable rivals.

Traditionally, antitrust regulators have only sought to block acquisitions involving two big companies. But Hovenkamp says U.S. antitrust law is broad enough for regulators to consider the potential damage wrought by relatively small deals too.

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5:30 p.m.

Major tech companies facing congressional antitrust scrutiny have no comment on the Justice Department's just announced probe.

The department says it is opening sweeping antitrust investigation of Big Tech and whether the online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers. It did not name any specific companies in its announcement.

Amazon had no comment. Facebook also did not have an immediate comment.

Google directed requests for comments to the testimony its director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, made to the House Judiciary Committee last week. Cohen reiterated the company's benefits to consumers.

Apple referred to comments from CEO Tim Cook, who told CBS last month he doesn't think "anybody reasonable" would call Apple a monopoly.

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5:15 p.m.

The U.S. Justice Department says it is opening a sweeping antitrust investigation of big technology companies and whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

It comes as a growing number of lawmakers have called for stricter regulation or even breaking up of the big tech companies, which have come under intense scrutiny following a series of scandals that compromised users' privacy. President Donald Trump also has relentlessly criticized the big tech companies by name in recent months.

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4:50 p.m.

The Washington Post is reporting that the Federal Trade Commission will allege that Facebook misled users about its privacy practices as part of an expected settlement.

The federal business watchdog will reportedly find that Facebook deceived users about how it handled phone numbers it asked for as part of a security feature and provided insufficient information about how to turn off a facial recognition tool for photos.

Advertisers were reportedly able to target users who provided their phone number as part of a two-factor authentication security feature.

The FTC didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. Facebook had no comment.

The complaints will reportedly be detailed in a settlement on Wednesday. Facebook won't be required to admit guilt but will have to submit to federal oversight, the newspaper reported.