Washington Post: When regulators fail to rein in Big Tech, some turn to antitrust litigation

August 21, 2020 Media

When it comes to keeping monopolists in check, the government has played the leading role, from President Teddy Roosevelt battling the railroad at the turn of the century to the Department of Justice taking on Microsoft in the 1990s.

Lately, though, it’s been other corporations and, in some cases, individuals standing up to the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, all of which have been accused of wielding monopoly power unfairly.

Last week, Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, one of the world’s most popular video games, became the latest company to step into the ring and fight for increased competition in the app economy. It sued both Apple and Google on the same day after both companies removed the game from their app stores.

Epic’s suit follows other civil lawsuits against the companies, all alleging anticompetitive behavior. Apple is being sued in part on antitrust grounds by email company Blix, which accuses the iPhone maker of stealing its technology and then suppressing its app on the Apple App Store. Amazon is facing a price-fixing lawsuit brought by consumers who claim the company has jacked up prices in some cases. And Facebook and Google have both faced lawsuits from independent software developers who claim they have abused their monopoly power over their own digital fiefdoms.

“Something strange started happening a few years ago, and it’s continuing today with this suit,” wrote Matt Stoller, the director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project, a Washington think tank devoted to reducing the power of monopolies, in his newsletter Wednesday. “Businesses began battling each other, and some started asking for an expansion of public power to structure markets. This suit is the latest on that score, the escalation of an ideological civil war within the business world, an attempt to undo deep changes in our society implemented forty years ago.”