- Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states are launching a probe to investigate whether Google violates antitrust law.
- Initially, the investigations will focus on whether Google is too dominant in the online advertising market and in Internet search.
- One result antitrust regulators may explore is forcing Google to turn off the search as a separate company.
Fifty state attorneys general, headed by Texas, have announced an investigation into Google's "potential monopolistic behavior." Attorneys in general are investigating whether the Silicon Valley search giant has become too large, and perhaps too effective to stamp out competitors.
The investigations will initially focus on the ad market and whether Google violated the law to gain dominance in the industry, said State Attorney Ken Paxton, who leads the probe.
"This is a company that dominates all aspects of internet advertising, as they dominate the buyer, seller and auction site," Paxton said. He later added: "If advertising costs are higher, advertisers pay more, and eventually it is passed on to consumers."
Attorney General of 48 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, leading separate investigations. The attorneys general in California and Alabama are not involved in the probe.
Google's parent company Alphabet has a market capitalization of more than $ 820 billion and reported revenue of $ 1
The legal authorities investigating the company on Monday focused on its dominance in advertising and search. Nine out of ten online searches are conducted through Google, and the company has been criticized for prioritizing its subsidiaries in search results.
"When my daughter is sick and I search the web for advice or doctors, I want the best – the best advice or the best doctors – not the ones who have spent the most on advertising," said Arkansas State Attorney Leslie Rutledge.
Last week, electronic project management company Basecamp complained that Google's paid search ads look like a "shakedown". that it had to pay to make sure his service appeared before the rivals' ads.
European regulators have fined Google for promoting their own shopping service in search. The company appeals the fine.
This year, Google will control 31% of the global digital ad dollars, according to eMarketer estimates, and will crush a distant second place from Facebook. And many smaller advertisers have argued that Google has such a stalemate on the market that it becomes a system of what Google says goes – because the option may not be to reach customers.
"It's like you were trying to buy a house, and Google owned the house, and a lot of houses on your block. And they were the buyer's agent and also the seller's agent," said Missouri attorney Eric Schmitt. "It would certainly raise questions."
"There is definitely concern from the advertisers themselves that Google is using too much power to set prices and favor its own services over others," said Jen King, staff director at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.  DoubleClick Purchases
Critics often point to Google's acquisition of 2007 online advertising company DoubleClick as a key role in advertising dominance.
Europe's antitrust regulators beat Google with a $ 1.7 billion fine in March, saying that they unfairly included exclusivity clauses in contracts with advertisers, a clear disadvantage for rivals in the online advertising industry.
Google has long argued that while businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. But regulators seem to be more concerned not only with the effects on ordinary Internet users, but also with smaller companies.
"On the one hand, you can just say, & # 39; Well, Google is dominant because they are good, & # 39;" King said. "But at the same time, it created an ecosystem where people's entire experience of the internet is communicated through the Google website and Google's other products."
A separate group of states announced a survey of Facebook's dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and Congress also conduct probes on both Facebook and Google.
Spin off the search industry?
One outcome antitrust regulators can explore is forcing Google to spin off the search as a separate company. Then there is Google's operating system for smartphones, Android. Another acquisition of Google, the system is the most widely used in the world.
European regulators have also fined Google $ 5 billion for tactics involving Android, and found that Google forced handset manufacturers to install Google apps, thus increasing reach. Google has since allowed several options for alternative browser and search apps for European Android phones.
It is also possible that US states will not follow in Europe's footsteps. For example, they could focus on sites such as Google's popular YouTube video site, another acquisition Google made that time in 2006.
Google leader Walker emphasized that the company's products help people every day.
"Google is one of America's top consumers in research and development, and investment that stimulates innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone – translate all languages instantly, learn about objects by point the phone, get answers to pretty much any question you may have, "he wrote.
CBS News & # 39; Irina Ivanova contributed reporting.