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Nearly every state is investigating Google over antitrust

Group includes 50 attorneys general from 48 states, DC, and Puerto Rico
Posted at 2:42 PM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 17:28:21-04

A group of 50 attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico unveiled a major antitrust investigation of Google Monday, sharply escalating the regulatory scrutiny facing the tech giant.

The probe will focus on whether Google has harmed competition and consumers, looking at least initially into the company's conduct in its search, advertising, and other businesses, though it may expand from there.

Speaking to reporters in front of the US Supreme Court Monday, a group of 13 attorneys general struck a bipartisan tone. Karl Racine, attorney general of the District of Columbia, said it was an "unusual setting" for a group that typically disagrees on issues ranging from gun control to reproductive rights.

"But we are acting as one today," he said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the investigation will begin by looking at Google's advertising and search dominance but hinted that the scope of the probe could widen significantly.

"The facts will lead where the facts will lead," he said.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said in a press release, “I and other state attorneys general are investigating because we have seen evidence that Google’s business practices may have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, compromised privacy, and put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information. We are concerned that Google has achieved and maintained this power through business practices designed to thwart competition and suppress alternatives to their products. We will investigate in an objective and fair-minded manner, with a focus on ensuring Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits of their products. If we identify illegal activities, we will take appropriate action.”

To kick off the probe, the states on Monday sent Google a compulsory request for information known as a civil investigative demand (CID). Officials declined to say what was contained in the request, but South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg told CNN Business the document is dozens of pages long with many questions.

The attorneys general of California and Alabama are the only two from all 50 states not yet participating.

Asked why California has not joined the states pursuing the investigation, a spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state is committed to fighting anti-competitive behavior.

"But to protect the integrity of our work, we can't comment — to confirm or deny any pending or potential investigation," the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Alabama attorney general didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The investigation significantly raises the risks of regulation for Google, which so far has faced antitrust scrutiny from federal lawmakers and the Justice Department. On Friday, Google disclosed in an investor filing that it had received a CID from DOJ.

The multi-state probe is the second such look into Big Tech to be announced within a week; on Friday, eight states and the District of Columbia said they have begun an antitrust investigation into Facebook.