All fifty states will be investigating Google over antitrust violations.
Fifty attorneys general are joining an investigation into Google over possible antitrust violations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the initiative’s leader, announced Monday.
The news confirms reports last week about the bipartisan investigation into Google’s practices. The bipartisan probe will take place as Facebook faces its own antitrust investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James with attorneys general from seven states plus the District of Columbia.
Paxton said the probe will focus on Google’s advertising business, “but the facts will lead where the facts lead.” So far, all of the facts the group has requested have centered around advertising, Paxton said.
The probe includes attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved in the probe, Paxton said at a press conference.
Shares of Google parent company Alphabet were down about 0.8% around the time of the announcement.
The state investigations put an additional layer of pressure on both companies, which are already facing antitrust scrutiny on the federal level. Facebook confirmed an antitrust probe by the Federal Trade Commission in July after the agency slapped it with a $5 billion fine over its privacy practices. And the Department of Justice will conduct its own antitrust investigation into Google, according to The Wall Street Journal.
So far, regulatory action on the federal level has had a minimal impact on Big Tech. Both Google and Facebook recently received fines from the FTC over their handling of user data that would be considered large by most standards but represented just a small fraction of their quarterly revenues.
But antitrust, compared to privacy and consumer protection concerns, poses a more direct threat to these companies’ business models. If the federal or state probes find evidence of anti-competitive behavior at Google, for example, it could be compelled to make its algorithms friendlier to rivals even if it eats at its own profits. It could also be forced to spin off entire business units like YouTube.
This antitrust investigation feels like a smoke screen to make people believe that the government is doing something substantive about these parasitical monopolies. But even if you break Google’s parent company Alphabet into a hundred separate companies, it does no good if all hundred of those companies continue to violate people’s freedom of speech. And this is really the most important problem we have at the moment. It is the fact that these companies are stifling people’s right to free speech on sites that have morphed into what is the modern day digital public square.
Quite honestly though, the last couple of paragraphs the CNBC article pretty much says all you need to know about the sad state of affairs we are dealing with. Thus far there has been no meaningful regulatory action against big tech that has prevented them from destroying the First Amendment and I don’t expect that to change with this antitrust investigation.