Department of Justice, State Attorneys General to Sue Google for Antitrust Violations: Report

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Visitors pass by the logo of Google at Viva Tech in Paris, France, May 16, 2019. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The Justice Department is expected to launch an antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as this summer, with a group of state attorneys general planning for a case in the fall, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

Both groups are already invested in planning for litigation. The state AGs, led by Texas Republican Ken Paxton, are thought to be targeting Google’s online-advertising model, while the DOJ’s case will encompass a wider array of issues, including Google’s monetization of its search tool to stifle competition. It is unclear whether the two groups will launch separate suits, or combine forces on a single one.

Scrutiny over Google’s alleged violations has grown since Attorney General Bill Barr highlighted the issue during his confirmation hearing and the DOJ announced an antitrust review of big tech companies last June. In September, Paxton launched a probe into Google with 47 other state AGs, saying that the company controls “all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet.” Records showed that Paxton’s team included lawyers with past ties to some of Google’s main competitors.

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“We’ve issued [civil subpoenas] to Google and impacted third parties. We hope to have the investigation wrapped up by fall,” Paxton told the Journal in a statement. “If we determine that filing is merited we will go to court soon after that.”

Barr, who reportedly assumed personal control of the DOJ antitrust probes in March, suggested at a DOJ workshop in February that “no longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts; they have become titans of US industry.”

“The avenues for sharing information and engaging in discourse have concentrated in the hands of a few key players,” Barr said. “The early days of online public bulletin boards, like AOL, have been replaced by platforms with sophisticated content-moderation tools, algorithms, recommendation features, and targeting.”

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