US antitrust investigation into Google may begin next week

4 Sep 2019

Google headquarters at Mountain View, California. Image: spvvk/Depositphotos

Ahead of the official launch of an antitrust investigation, Google has promised to cooperate with investigators and state officials.

In late July, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) confirmed that it was set to conduct an antitrust investigation that may focus on Google and other Big Tech players.

The Washington Post has now reported that more than 30 US state attorneys general are in the midst of preparing for a massive DoJ probe into Google. This would mean that more than half of the state attorneys general in the country are involved in the investigation.

According to a Washington Post source, the probe will be publicly announced on Monday, 9 September. A smaller group of state officials representing the broader coalition is expected unveil the investigation in Washington. It is not clear if the DoJ will be present at the announcement.

Numerous state officials have spoken out about the influence and power that technology giants in the US hold. Officials from Louisiana and Mississippi have previously criticised Google’s handling of users’ information and its search result algorithms.

Officials in Texas have also suggested that Google could be violating state consumer-protection laws if the platform exhibits bias towards certain political viewpoints. In particular, officials were concerned about the censorship of conservative viewpoints.

Texas first assistant attorney general Jeff Mateer said: “If big tech companies are not living up to their commitments and representations regarding being open to all political viewpoints and free of bias and restrictions on the basis of policy preference, then they should be held accountable for their false, misleading and deceptive trade practices.”

Google’s response

Google has said it is cooperating with investigators and state officials.

Jose Castaneda, a representative for the company, said: “We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector.”

Google, which was already fined €1.49bn after an EU antitrust investigation earlier this year, could be forced to alter its practices and algorithms if the investigation concludes that the company is engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

It’s also possible that the company could be forced to break up parts of its business. The same week that the DoJ probe was announced, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported a revenue rise of 19pc.

Google headquarters at Mountainview, California. Image: spvvk/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic