Lawmakers demand internal documents from Big Tech in antitrust probe

PHOTO: Rep. David Cicilline,left, chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, speaks alongside ranking member, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.PlayPatrick Semansky/AP
WATCH News headlines today: Nov. 21, 2019

A House committee on Friday took a major step in its investigation into whether Big Tech companies are stifling competition.

In the bipartisan probe, the committee sent letters to four major tech companies Friday asking for extensive internal documents, including communications about rivals from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook and Alphabet's Larry Page.

“The focus of the investigation is to examine competition problems,” the letters, obtained by ABC News, read in part.

Rep. David Cicilline, the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, said the lawmakers the requested documents from Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon included financial materials submitted to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

PHOTO: Rep. David Cicilline,left, chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, speaks alongside ranking member, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Patrick Semansky/AP
Rep. David Cicilline,left, chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, speaks alongside ranking member, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

“We made it clear when we launched this bipartisan investigation that we plan to get all the facts we need to diagnose the problems in the digital marketplace. Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination,” Cicilline said in a statement. “We expect stakeholders to use this opportunity to provide information to the Committee to ensure that the Internet is an engine for opportunity for everyone, not just a select few gatekeepers.”

In one example, the lawmakers want Google to turn over documents about its advertising rules and its acquisition of YouTube.

A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Jeff Chiu/AP Photo
A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif.

“The Judiciary Committee is investigating the relationship between big tech and market competition,” said Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga. “We are continuing to hold hearings and roundtables, but we need more information. This information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets.”

Earlier this month, attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico announced they were investigating Google and other tech companies.