Last week, Attorney General William Barr went on the offensive against the tech industry, scolding Apple for refusing to grant authorities access to phones used by the gunman in the deadly shooting at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, in December. The public confrontation over data privacy and security was Barr’s latest effort to challenge big tech companies, which are coming up against mounting hostility from the Trump administration and other policy makers over the industry’s wide-ranging influence.
The Justice Department under Barr already is exploring suing Apple and Google on antitrust grounds, while another federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, is conducting a similar probe of Facebook and Amazon. Last month, Barr opened a new front in his offensive when he questioned the protection granted to online companies for content users post to their sites. Calling the liability shield “staggering,” Barr told a group of state attorneys general that the Justice Department would review the law, known as Section 230, which has protected tech companies from lawsuits for more than two decades.