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Google is the target of a new state attorney general's antitrust probe



More than half of the nation's state attorneys are gearing up for a Google investigation into potential antitrust violations, scheduled for publication next week, marking a major escalation in US regulators. attempts to probe Silicon Valley's largest companies.

A smaller group of these state officials, representing the broader coalition, is expected to unveil the investigation at a Sept. 9 conference in Washington, according to three people familiar with the case who were not authorized to discuss law enforcement continuing in the post , warning that plans may change.

It is unclear whether some or all attorneys generally also plan to open or announce further probes to other tech giants, including Amazon and Facebook, who have faced similar US antitrust control.

Over the past year, regulators around the country have become increasingly wary of the power exercised by Silicon Valley, questioning whether the industry's access to huge amounts of proprietary data – and deep pockets – allows companies to turn off competitors and maintain their dominance to the detriment of consumers. Two federal antitrust agencies have opened probes targeting the industry widely, while Congressional lawmakers have grilled executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google about business practices.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Outside of the nation's capital, however, government officials have also begun to question the growing influence of big tech. Attorneys general in several states have threatened that probation may be on the horizon, Post reported in early March, and states such as Louisiana and Mississippi have harshly criticized Google for handling users' personal information and algorithms for browsing search results. These states did not respond to requests for comment.

Texas officials have raised similar concerns. They have also said that Google may be in violation of state consumer protection laws if Google's political bias resulted in censorship of conservative views. A spokesman for the Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment either.

During the summer, some state attorneys general met privately with Department of Justice officials, who announced their own broad review of big tech, to discuss their antitrust concerns. The agency's anti-trust leader, Makan Delrahim, later said at a conference in August that the federal government coordinates with state leaders, which he constituted more than a dozen, but declined to provide further details on the agency's plans.

It is unclear whether the DOJ will join the states during the event, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Google services help people every day, create more choices for consumers and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country," spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement. "We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, to answer questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector."

The state's forthcoming antitrust investigation by Google threatens to sell the company with years of regulatory scrutiny. The federal government has the most powerful tools at its disposal in an antitrust investigation, with the potential to break up a business for violating competition laws.

But states can still play a powerful role. For example, state attorneys general in the 1990s helped build a broader case against Microsoft, after competitors complained that it exploited its Windows monopoly when it entered new markets and used it to create barriers to those competing against it. .

For Google, states' increased interest comes about six years after the US government formally studied the tech giant's search and advertising business, but chose to beat it with significant penalties. The U.S. action came in sharp contrast to Europe, which later issued a series of staggering, $ 1 billion fines to the company for the way it displays search results and manages its Android smartphone operating system.

DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission's broad review of big tech may later evolve into more formal probes for Google and its Silicon Valley peers. Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they would hold a hearing focusing on technology giants that are gaining minor rivals.


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