Fifty state attorneys general have banded together to launch an investigation into Google to audit whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has stifled competitors in a way that's harmful to users.
The probe — which was announced on Monday from the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington DC — is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
"This is a company [Google] that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet, as they dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side, and even the video side with YouTube." Paxton said on Monday. "This investigation is not a lawsuit. It is an investigation to determine the facts. Right now we're looking at advertising, but the facts will lead where the facts will lead."
Mondays' announcement from the attorneys general comes on the heels of Friday's news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun an investigation of its own into Google over its potentially anti-competitive practices. Google said in an SEC filing released late last week that the DOJ has requested information regarding its previous antitrust probes in the US and abroad.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal also confirmed that state AGs — led by New York Attorney General Letitia James — are planning a separate investigation into Facebook, evaluating its grip on competitors and potential mishandling of user data. Facebook already acknowledged in July that it was under investigation over antitrust concerns by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — one of the federal agencies with the authority to carry out antitrust probes, along with the DOJ.
Google faced a federal antitrust investigation in 2013 by the FTC regarding its search and smartphone business practices. At that time, Google walked away from the encounter without incurring any financial penalties and having committed itself only to vague promises to change some business practices.
The EU, on the other hand, has taken a sharper stance with the Google, fining the tech giant roughly $10 billion in recent years for various anticompetitive practices involving its advertising, search, and mobile businesses.
Outspoken politicians — like US Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren — have called for a break up of the tech industry's major players, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. For Google, Warren said that to "unwind" the search giant, she would start by having the company divest major acquisitions like its map service Waze, smart home hardware company Nest, and advertising platform DoubleClick.