It was a rough day for Google, and by extension, Big Tech, amid the waves of stormy legal seas.
An antitrust investigation against Google was unveiled Monday (Sept. 9), with the backing of nearly every state attorney general in United States.
In terms of optics, a verifiable crowd gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
The focus of the probe will be on whether the company has abused its position in the online advertising market.
“I can’t remember the last time you had just about everybody get on the train,” William Kovacic, a former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairman under President George W. Bush, told Politico. “It provides somewhat of a greater degree of political support and power behind it in terms of resourcing.”
The Monday announcement comes as the latest salvo in the growing scrutiny of Google, yes, but also larger tech firms in general. The AG pool on the antitrust investigation announced Monday is bipartisan in nature, and the panels holding congressional hearings into Google, Facebook and Amazon have been, too.
As has been noted in this space, Thursday will see a new hearing into technology’s use of data and how that impacts competition and privacy.
As for the antitrust investigation, the probe is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At the Monday press conference, Paxton said Google dominates all sides of the online equation, including buyers and sellers “and even the video side with YouTube,” according to his remarks. He said 50 state attorneys general are involved in the investigation — across 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Absent from the roster is Alabama and California.
“What we have all learned is that while many consumers believe that the internet is free, certainly we know from Google’s profits … that the internet is not free. This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet,” he said.
To be sure, this is not the first concerted effort by AGs looking into Big Tech. As has been reported, a group of AGs spanning Washington, D.C., New York, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Colorado and other states has trained its sights on Facebook.
Beyond the examinations by state attorneys general, other investigations are in progress from the likes of the FTC and the Department of Justice, in addition to separate investigations from the House Judiciary Committee and a senate subcommittee.
At the Monday press conference, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the AGs, across political parties and demographics, stand together to “protect the free market, protect competition and … the American consumer … against this online, search engine juggernaut.”
“This investigation is not a lawsuit,” Paxton said. It is an investigation to determine the facts. “Right now we are looking at advertising, but the facts will lead to where the facts will lead.”