Attorneys general from 50 U.S. states and territories launched an investigation into Google to find out whether the tech giant violates antitrust laws. A handful of them announced the probe Monday at a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court.
It’s the latest in a series of inquiries into the dominance of the U.S. tech industry by federal and state officials. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the state investigation. He stressed Monday that it is “not a lawsuit, it is an investigation to determine the facts.”
However, he noted, “the facts will lead to where the facts lead.”
“While many consumers believe that the internet is free, certainly we know from Google’s profits of $117 billion that the internet is not free,” Paxton said during the press conference. “This is a company that dominates all aspect of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet, as they dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side, and even the video side with YouTube.”
The investigation will focus on “Google’s potential monopolistic behavior” in search and advertising, according to Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia.
Google responded to the investigation in a blog post written by Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs.
“We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us,” Walker wrote. “The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.”
The Washington Post first reported on the state investigation last week.
Two states are not participating in the investigation: Alabama and California. Asked about the abstainers, Paxton said, “you might not be surprised that California, where Google’s located,” did not join the lawsuit. “They can still change their minds,” he added.
Washington state is participating, the attorney general’s office confirmed Monday. Washington is home to two of America’s largest tech companies, Amazon and Microsoft.
Microsoft has largely escaped the antitrust heat that its tech industry peers face but Amazon is in the hot seat. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are looking into the business practices of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple to determine whether there is anticompetitive behavior. DOJ may be investigating other tech companies as well. In July, the department launched a broad review of “market-leading online platforms” with a focus on “search, social media, and some retail services online.”
A separate state coalition, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, is investigating whether Facebook stifles competition, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The state investigations could complement or support the federal government’s probes, as they did when the feds pursued Microsoft over antitrust violations in the 1990s.