50 attorneys general from US states and territories signed onto an antitrust investigation into Google, placing even more pressure on the major tech firms that are already facing intense scrutiny over their market dominance from the government. The probe comes as Silicon Valley faces increasing scrutiny from the government over what critics say are monopolistic business practices. California and Alabama are the only two state attorneys general staying out of the probe.
In a press conference in front of the Supreme Court, Paxton said that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet,”“We applaud the 50 state attorneys general for taking this unprecedented stand against Big Tech by uniting to investigate Google’s destruction of competition in search and advertising,” the Open Markets Institute said in a statement. “We haven’t seen a major monopolization case against a tech giant since Microsoft was sued in 1998. Today’s announcement marks the start of a new era.”For now, the probe will focus on Google’s dominance in digital advertising. But the attorneys general also hinted the investigation could become broader, extending to other businesses of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. They mentioned smartphones and online video.
The broad participation by the attorneys general signals a powerful united front from the states — with two notable exceptions: Alabama and California, where Google is headquartered. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment. In a statement, the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “California remains deeply concerned and committed to fighting anticompetitive behavior. The office declined to comment further in order to “protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations.”Google is the clear leader when it comes to digital advertising in the US, with more than 37% of the market, according to eMarketer. Facebook trails at No. 2 with more than 22%. But while Google has a commanding advantage, rivals like Amazon have chipped away at its lead in recent years. The e-commerce giant owns almost 9 percent of the market. When it comes specifically to search advertising revenue, however, Google is the clear juggernaut. Google owns almost 75% of the search advertising market, according to eMarketer, while its nearest competitor, Microsoft, follows far behind at almost 7%.
New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, announced a investigation into whether Facebook “endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.” Her coalition included attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” James said last week. “I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Missouri’s former state attorney general, was one of the first to open an antitrust investigation into Google back in 2017. Hawley has carried over that same tech skepticism into the halls of Congress where he has sponsored a number of bills aimed at regulating the industry. He has also taken the helm of the Republican party’s claims that large tech platforms censor conservative speech, an unsubstantiated theory.
“I’m really, really pleased by this news that so many states are going to stand together and essentially join Missouri in its efforts, now two years old, to investigate Google.”