U.S. states launch antitrust probe of Google, advertising in focus

DN Bureau

Attorneys general from 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico formally opened an antitrust probe on Monday into Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), in a sign of growing government scrutiny of U.S. technology giants.

File Photo
File Photo

Washington: Attorneys general from 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico formally opened an antitrust probe on Monday into Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), in a sign of growing government scrutiny of U.S. technology giants.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the probe, said it will focus on Google’s “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behaviour that harms consumers.” California and Alabama declined to be part of the probe.

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Participating states on Monday asked Google to provide documents on its advertising business, Paxton said at the announcement in Washington. Several attorneys general present described the investigation as “preliminary” and said they expected it would expand to cover other issues, including data privacy.

A separate group of eight state attorneys general, led by New York, joined by the District of Columbia, announced on Friday it was investigating Facebook Inc (FB.O). On Monday, attorneys general declined to say if they planned to expand scrutiny to other large tech firms.

Arkansas attorney general leslie rutledge

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called Google’s 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.

“When a company becomes a verb, it may seem as though the states are David taking on Goliath but I am proud to stand tall with my fellow attorneys general,” Rutledge said.

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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the probe was “for the benefit of the tech ecosystem to help level the playing field.” 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.” (Reuters)

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