Published: Tue, September 10, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

U.S. tech giants Google, Facebook to face another phase of antitrust probes

U.S. tech giants Google, Facebook to face another phase of antitrust probes

Led by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton from Texas, at a press conference Paxton said that Google "dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet", noting that the investigation may be broadened later.

A key issue in the probe is whether Google abuses its market dominance in online search, advertising and mobile operating systems to unfairly gain leverage in other markets, stifling innovation and harming consumers.

Attorneys general Monday said Google search results are skewed toward its own products and those of advertisers rather than the best information.

A group of 50 attorneys general opened a broad investigation into whether advertising practices of Alphabet Inc.'s Google violate antitrust laws.

"We want to make sure that we protect the free market, protect consumers and give them every opportunity", Rutledge said. "Is something really free if online ad prices go up based on one company's control?" The agency, which rarely comments publicly on pending probes, didn't name names, but several media reports have suggested that the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission agreed to split the big antitrust work this year, with the DOJ taking on Apple and Google while the FTC looks at Amazon and Facebook.

Last week Google disclosed that, in addition to state-level government action, the Justice Department has asked the company to hand over documents.

Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, would not confirm or deny any state investigation.

"I happen to think this will rewrite the standard for antitrust", Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told CNBC television.

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Racine explained that attorneys general from each state are "an independent bunch". "But the facts will lead where the facts lead".

"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".

That's left many Google critics scratching their heads.

"There's no question that Google is the dominant player when it comes to internet searches with almost ninety percent of the [market's] share..."

The Justice Department is also probing Google's role in the online advertising market and its search operations, Bloomberg has reported, although it's inquiry is separate from the state efforts. Considering Google is a USA company.

Charlotte Slaiman of the patron group Public Information welcomed the brand new investigations as "an vital and highly effective step" which "may help customers and modern opponents entry markets for platforms which are extra honest and extra aggressive". An antitrust investigation like this could run parallel with a federal case, causing considerable headaches for Google.

The action adds to a mounting number of probes of big technology firms by USA authorities.

Over the past decade, Google has been one of the biggest political donors in Washington, but this time around, the political environment is much less favorable to Google.

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