The Justice Department is investigating them, as is the Federal Trade Commission. Congress and state attorneys general have their sights on the companies, too.
There is no shortage of people arguing that America’s large technology companies — namely Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — have gotten too big and too powerful. That has helped spur the scrutiny by the government officials.
But what to do about the issue? On that, the industry’s critics are split.
Some would like to see the businesses broken up. Others want more robust regulation. And there are shades of gray on both sides. Here are four of the most prominent prescriptions being debated.
This is the most drastic surgery, splitting off large portions of the big tech companies.
The guiding principle is simple. If you own a dominant online marketplace or platform, you cannot also offer the goods, services and software applications sold on that marketplace.
So Amazon could not own the leading e-commerce marketplace and sell Amazon-label goods there. Or Google could not have both the dominant search engine and its Google Shopping service, which shows up in search results. Apple could own an app store that offers music services, but not also its own music service sold there. And so on.
Bundling businesses on top of a dominant platform invites conflicts of interest and discrimination against rivals, thwarting competition, proponents of this countermeasure say.
“The world is going to be better off after we break up these companies,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy group.