State AGs launch Google antitrust investigation

Attorneys general for 48 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia announced an antitrust investigation into Google Monday, as the search giant has come under scrutiny for possible anti-competitive practices.

The company “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement outside the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Silicon Valley’s data monopoly could threaten competition and consumers.

The only two states not participating in the investigation are Alabama and California, the latter is Google's home state as well as that of other tech giants in Silicon Valley. A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, according to a report on Fox 59 in Cleveland's web site, said the state is committed to fighting anti-competitive behavior but added, "to protect the integrity of our work, we can't comment — to confirm or deny any pending or potential investigation."

A report last month sponsored by the Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State at the University of Chicago, researchers argued that the more people who use an online service, the more users, developers, and advertisers it attracts. Therefore, the bigger it gets, the easier big technology companies overshadow competitors.

As of the last reporting period, Google's Gmail alone had more than 1 billion users.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are zeroing in on big tech. DOJ officials issued Google a legal demand for records at the end of August, according to a report from the Washington Post. The search giant said it expects similar requests to come.

And lawmakers have questioned executives from Amazon, Apple and Facebook about their practices. Two federal antitrust agencies have opened probes targeting the industry overall and eight states and the District of Columbia are looking into possible Facebook antitrust violations, which the social media giant has denied.

“People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide,” Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president of state and local policy, said in a statement. “We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe.”

For its part, Google has said it continues to work with regulators and offer transparency about its business: “Google's services help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector.”

Still, critics of Google’s practices, have been calling for more aggressive regulation. Democratic presidential hopeful and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren specifically called out Amazon, Google and Facebook for consolidating power and stifling competition. Nearly half of U.S. adults, or 48 percent, said in a recent Gallup poll that the government should increase regulation on big tech.

And in an interview with FOX Business, Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, said, “Just as we have regulations on airlines and cars, we should be regulating social media and technology companies,” explain that big tech has “become ubiquitous in our lives and have the potential to cause enormous harm.”