U.S. launches massive Google antitrust probe

A Google sign is seen during the WAIC in Shanghai China

A Google sign is seen during the WAIC in Shanghai China

The law enforcement heads - including 48 from U.S. states and two from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico - requested documents from Google that focus on the Alphabet subsidiary's advertising business, Texas AG Ken Paxton announced Monday.

"We applaud the 50 state attorneys general for taking this unprecedented stand against Big Tech by uniting to investigate Google's destruction of competition in search and advertising".

"This investigation is not a lawsuit, it is an investigation to determine the facts", said Paxton. "When there is no longer a free market or competition, this increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers", Moody said.

"When a giant like Google makes 90% of its revenue from utilizing our personal data in its advertising business while undermining consumer choice, stifling innovation, violating our privacy, and controlling the flow and exchange of information, it is essential that we take a closer look", Nessel said. "This investigation will initially focus on capture of that information and whether Google embedded itself on every level of the online market [for] ad sales to monopolize this industry".

A spokesman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state was committed to fighting anticompetitive behaviour but declined to comment further "to protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations".

A Wall Street Journal report suggested that New York Attorney General Letitia James will lead the investigation into Facebook.

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The announcement from 50 attorneys general calls for a probe into whether Google abused its power in the online ecosystem at the expense of rivals or consumers.

But Yost told National Public Radio on Monday that it's a "possibility" that the probes of Google and Facebook could lead to a forced breakup of the companies.

However, in July the US Justice Department said it would review whether practices by "leading online platforms" had stifled competition. An antitrust investigation like this could run parallel with a federal case, causing considerable headaches for Google.

Google is by far the largest online search engine and captures almost 75 percent of search-related online ads in the U.S., according to eMarketer. That probe is now growing to include attorneys general across the nation. Both President Trump and various Democratic presidential candidates have been critical of Google. He tweeted last month an accusation by a former employee that the tech giant had suppressed negative stories on Hillary Clinton in Google search results, while boosting negative stories about him.

"The state attorneys general, they are an independent bunch, and they can be quite tenacious", Racine said. "So you may need to go to a second, third or fourth page to find the best products and services available to you", she said, questioning whether the consumer is always getting the most accurate information.

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