Yet another investigation has formally begun into Google’s possible monopoly power, this time lead by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“They dominate the buyer side, the sellers’ side, and even the video side with YouTube,” Paxton said at a press conference this afternoon on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. As an anonymous source told Politico prior to the official announcement, nearly every state signed onto the investigation. California and Alabama chose not to be involved in the probe, but D.C. and Puerto Rico brought out the coalition to an even 50.
Although the initial thrust of the probe will be Google’s dominance in web advertising, Paxton stressed that the investigation will follow where the facts lead. “There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the biggest game in town if it does so through free market competition, but we have seen evidence that Google’s business practices may have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users’ privacy, and put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information,” he wrote in a press release.
This particular investigation is just one of several in the current patchwork of regulatory enforcement against big tech. A similar coalition of Attorneys General representing New York, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, commenced a similar antitrust probe against Facebook last week.
Broader probes have also been opened by the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, the House Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. In an otherwise deeply divided and ineffective government, enforcement against the tech sector’s biggest players is one of the few issues with broad bipartisan support. “I’m next to friends of mine who I vehemently disagree with,” Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia said on Monday in DC. “But we are acting as one today.”
“Google’s services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States,” Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post late last week. “At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law [...] We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.”