WASHINGTON – The attorneys general of 50 US states and territories announced on Monday the launching of a macro-investigation against tech giant Google for alleged violations of anti-trust laws.
“It’s an investigation to determine the facts,” the Republican attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, said at a press conference outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington. “Right now it’s about advertising, but the facts will lead where they lead.”
Paxton made the announcement accompanied by fellow AG’s Karl Racine of Washington, DC, and Doug Peterson of Nebraska, saying that his office will head the investigative team, which will meet weekly to discuss progress on the probe
Many consumers believe that the Internet is free, Paxton said, noting that he and his fellow AG’s had learned that that is not so and adding that Google is a firm that dominates all aspects of online advertising.
The only two states not participating in the probe are California, where the firm is based, and Alabama.
Google has been facing accusations that its Web search service, which is so dominant in the virtual space, has been displaying for consumers its own products at the expense of its competitors.
“It’s an entirely different way of dealing with a monopoly,” Florida’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, told CNBC, adding: “We will continue to share information (with the other states and DC) as we work through this investigation,” and going on to say that “Depending upon what we ultimately find, that may indicate how we further collaborate.”
At the press conference, Moody said that both Democrat and Republican attorneys general have a responsibility to protect the citizens of their states.
At the federal level, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are investigating Facebook, Apple and Amazon for possible anti-trust violations.
On Friday evening, Google said that it had been informed of the investigation by the DOJ.
“The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions,” Google vice president Kent Walker wrote in a blog post on Friday. “We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.”
“Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation,” Walker wrote in the blog post. “Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone – translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.”
Monday’s move comes after on Friday attorneys general from eight states opened an investigation into whether Facebook put the personal data of consumers at risk or violated antitrust law.
“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” New York AG Letitia James, a Democrat, said in a statement announcing the measure.
Last month, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion as part of a settlement with the FTC for privacy violations.