Monday, 06 April, 2020


U.S. states launch antitrust probe of Google, advertising in focus

Attorneys General of 48 US states launch investigation into Google Attorneys General of 48 US states launch investigation into Google
Conrad Doyle | 10 September, 2019, 21:29

A separate group of eight state attorneys general, led by NY, joined by the District of Columbia, announced on Friday it was investigating Facebook Inc.

The leader of the initiative is Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who made the announcement to the media on Monday alongside a number of other state attorneys general and investigators.

Paxton added that Google's dominance on Internet advertising stretches from all aspects of the online advertising markets.

Karl Racine, the Democratic attorney general for the District of Columbia, said that the state attorneys general would persist in their probe, even if the federal government declines to take action against Google. Google's parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls many facets of the internet.

On the federal level, the Justice Department and FTC are also probing Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon for potential violations of antitrust law.

On Friday, Google confirmed that the Justice Department asked the company for information as part of its ongoing tech competition review.

"It's fantastic that they have 50 AGs that are part of the multi-state investigation", said Charlotte Slaiman, a senior policy counsel for consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.

Meanwhile, Florida's Attorney General, Ashley Moody is more anxious about the lack of competition in the ad space.

Scott Morton, the Yale professor, said most states have laws that mimic federal antitrust laws, but it can be harder for state attorneys general to enforce those laws because they don't usually have in-house antitrust experts. "A lot of people can go out searching for things like El Dorado and invest their time into looking for something that just doesn't exist", he said.

A 2018 study found that Google collects far more information from its users than Facebook does, using platforms including its search engine, Android phones, Chrome web browser, and YouTube video-sharing website. "Google will be in control of most of those searches", he alleged.

Google is by far the biggest on-line search engine and captures practically 75 p.c of search-related on-line advertisements within the U.S., based on eMarketer.

According to eMarketer, Google is now the undisputed leader in digital advertising in the USA, accounting for more than 37 per cent of the market share. European regulators also have investigated in this area, ultimately fining Google for promoting its own shopping service. Google's dominance in online search and advertising enables it to target millions of consumers for their personal data.

Will Castleberry, Facebook's vice president for state and local policy, said last week that the company would cooperate with state attorneys general.

Charlotte Slaiman of the patron group Public Information welcomed the brand new investigations as "an vital and highly effective step" which "may help customers and modern opponents entry markets for platforms which are extra honest and extra aggressive".

This, of course, could become a much bigger deal for Google.

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