House investigation faults Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google for engaging in anti-competitive monopoly tactics

Congressional investigators faulted Facebook for gobbling up potential competitors with impunity, and they concluded Google improperly scraped rivals’ websites and forced its technology on others to reach its pole position in search and advertising. The lawmakers’ report labeled both of those firms as monopolies while faulting the federal government for failing to crack down on them sooner.

Amazon and Apple, meanwhile, exerted their own form of “monopoly power” to protect and grow their corporate footprints. As operators of two major online marketplaces — a world-leading shopping site for Amazon, and a powerful App Store for Apple — the two tech giants for years set rules that essentially put smaller, competing sellers and software developers at a disadvantage, the report found.

The House investigation stopped short of calling on the Trump administration to break up any of the companies. Instead, it proposed the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. antitrust law in decades, a series of legislative proposals that could empower the government to battle bigness in the tech industry and prevent future problematic mergers. Any such retooling would require approval from Congress, and they would affect not only Silicon Valley but the entire economy — essentially turning the House’s efforts into a broader assault against corporate consolidation.

“You look at farms and agriculture; you look at big banks, of course; you look at the housing market; you look at retail,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), one of the committee’s members. “Our focus is on tech, but there’s no question this would help strengthen competition and rein in anti-monopoly behavior across industries, which would benefit consumers.”

In the meantime, the House’s findings threaten to carry considerable legal weight, lending fresh evidence to state and federal officials as they actively investigate Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google for potential violations of antitrust rules. The Justice Department is expected to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google in a matter of days, as state attorneys general mount their own, nearly finished probe of the search-and-advertising giant.

“To put it simply,…