Tech

USA states and territories launch antitrust probe into Google’s ‘potential monopolistic behavior’

USA states and territories launch antitrust probe into Google’s ‘potential monopolistic behavior’

USA judicial authorities are stepping up their antitrust scrutiny of information-technology giants.

The investigation by the Attorneys General will be the first of its kind to address fully the source of Google's sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices with the intention to protect and maintain that power.

"We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us", Google said in its post.

The investigation significantly raises the risks of regulation for Google, which so far has faced antitrust scrutiny from federal lawmakers and the Justice Department.

Another group of 11 state attorneys general - led by New York's Letitia James - has begun their own probe against Facebook, exploring whether it violates competition laws and mishandles consumers' personal information.

Sen. Diane Feinstein did not hold back when questioning representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter on November 1. As noted by The Washington Post, this could be worrying for Google as the investigation may later expand beyond just ads.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who joined the news conference, said, "The question for us is whether Google has strayed from its founding principles to not do evil".

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Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called Google's online search engine a "juggernaut", and argued that a free search sometimes came at the cost of the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies.

Doug Peterson, the attorney general for Nebraska, described the historic probe as "a big deal" adding that, "when 50 Attorney Generals come together they send a strong message to Google".

The 48 states have asked Google, earlier this week, to share documents on how it runs its advertising operations. (Alabama and California are the two states not participating.) The states' action is independent of several different federal actions, participating attorneys general stressed. "I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk".

Given Google's absolute dominant position in search, and advertising, an antitrust case wasn't exactly unexpected.

"Companies as large as Google or Facebook probably have minor problematic practices the AGs could target, but I'm still waiting for any evidence that would support more structural challenges to the internet giants' practices".

"We are concerned about Google's control of so much of the information and commerce on the internet, and this power has been gained without transparency", said Miller. Both President Trump and various Democratic presidential candidates have been critical of Google.

One outcome antitrust regulators might explore is forcing Google to spin off search as a separate company, experts say. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Missouri's former state attorney general.