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State Attorneys General Launch Antitrust Probe of Google

September 9, 2019 by Dan McCue
Google headquarters on Jan. 24, 2016, in Mountain View, Calif. Many tech companies in Silicon Valley are coming under scrutiny from U.S. antitrust enforcers. (Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Fifty attorneys general launched an antitrust investigation into Google Monday, announcing their effort on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the bipartisan coalition, said Monday the probe will look at whether Google has “engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.”

“Now, more than ever, information is power, and the most important source of information in Americans’ day-to-day lives is the internet. When most Americans think of the internet, they no doubt think of Google,” Paxton continued.

“There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the biggest game in town if it does so through free market competition, but we have seen evidence that Google’s business practices may have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users’ privacy, and put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information,” he said. “We intend to closely follow the facts we discover in this case and proceed as necessary.” 

He was joined outside the Supreme Court by the attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Alaska, South Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Utah, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, and Nebraska.

They vowed to thoroughly investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers.

Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with Federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets.

“Online advertising is everywhere. This investigation is about whether that market is fair and open to all. We hope that Google will cooperate in the states’ investigation,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies are already facing multiple investigations by Congress and other federal entities into whether the Silicon Valley giants are brazenly ignoring antitrust laws.

But critics of those inquiries say they’ve moved too slowly. Their hope is that the effort by the attorneys general will lead to more of a sense of urgency on the part of their federal counterparts.

Google will control 31.1% of global digital ad dollars in 2019, according to eMarketer, a market research firm.

Google is not the only tech giant to draw the interest of the states.

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she is looking into whether Facebook violated competition laws because it mishandled “consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”

The investigation has the backing of attorneys general in states such as Colorado, Florida and Ohio as well as the District of Columbia.

A spokesman for Google said the company’s services “help people every day, create more choices for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country.”

“We look forward to working with the attorneys general to answer questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector,” he said.

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