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State AGs Gearing Up For Antitrust Push On Google?

For Google, antitrust scrutiny may be ramping up — if the meetings are any indication. As reported by Reuters on Monday (Nov. 11), attorneys general from as many as a dozen states are meeting in Colorado to discuss the ongoing investigation into the tech giant.

“The gathering was expected to be similar to one held in New York in October, where state and federal enforcers from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission discussed their probe of Facebook,” Reuters reported.

The knowledge of the Google-focused meeting comes from two unnamed sources cited by the newswire.

Google, of course, faces two other investigations — one with the U.S. Justice Department looking into the company’s business practices, and one by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. In the case of the latter investigation, U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee representatives have said there could be a final report by early next year about Big Tech (which would include Google), and breaches of antitrust law.

Separately, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official said last Friday (Nov. 8), as reported by the Associated Press, that the government would look to identify and purse cases of anticompetitive behavior from Big Tech firms, especially if they stifle competition.

“Antitrust enforcers cannot turn a blind eye to the serious competition questions that digital markets have raised,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim at an antitrust conference on Friday. The conference was held at Harvard Law School, according to the newswire.

As noted in this space in September, the attorneys general, in a crowded announcement on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, said they would look into whether the company has abused its position in the online advertising market. The probe is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At the September press conference, Paxton said the probe had been joined across 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Absent from the roster is Alabama and California.

“What we have all learned is that, while many consumers believe that the internet is free, certainly we know from Google’s profits … that the internet is not free. This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet,” Paxton said at the time.

Google, of course, has fired off a few legal salvos of its own. The company filed a lawsuit against Paxton at the end of last month, and has asked a court to protect the search firm’s confidential business information from becoming public. That’s partly due to the fact that Paxton has hired three consultants, two of them employed by Google rivals.

“Given the breadth of confidential information sought by [Paxton’s office], and the heightened risks of leaks and disclosure to Google’s competitors and complainants in this and other regulatory proceedings, a protective order is appropriate and necessary,” Google said.

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