by Dr. Eowyn
Something is finally being done about Google, the tech behemoth that systematically discriminates against conservatives and Christians.
Tellingly, more than a year ago in May 2018, Google got rid of its unofficial “Don’t be evil” motto that had been part of the company’s corporate code of conduct since 2000.
On Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google‘s threat to competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.
The Washington Post reports that the investigation is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and seven other attorneys general, four Democrats and four Republicans in total. Every state except Alabama and California, the latter ironically the home of Silicon Valley, so far has signed onto the bipartisan effort, as have Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
During a news conference on Monday on the steps of the Supreme Court with officials from 11 states and the District of Columbia, Texas AG Ken Paxton, a Tea Party conservative, said the probe’s initial focus is Google’s online advertising, but promised the probe would go wherever the facts lead. State officials already have sent Google official legal demands for documents related to the investigation of online ads.
According to eMarketer, Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year, far rivaling its peers, while capturing 75% of all spending on U.S. search ads. Describing Google as dominating “all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” Paxton said “They dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side and the video side with YouTube.”
The other attorneys general raised additional complaints about Google, from the way the company processes and ranks search results to the extent to which it may not fully protect users’ personal information:
- Sean Reyes, the Republican attorney general of Utah, said “There’s nothing wrong with being a dominant player when it’s done fairly,” and that while there is a “presumption” of innocence in such an investigation, still there is a “pervasiveness” to complaints about Google’s business practices.
- Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana, added: “We’re here because there’s an absolutely existential threat to our virtual marketplace.”
- Ashley Moody, the Republican attorney general of Florida, said the states’ Google probe starts with the company’s vast data stores: “Google monitors our online behavior, and captures data on every one of us as we navigate the internet. This investigation will initially focus on capture of that information and whether Google embedded itself on every level of the online market [for] ad sales to monopolize this industry.”
- Leslie Rutledge, a Republican attorney general from Arkansas, described Google as an “online search engine juggernaut” and raised her concern that searches for businesses, including doctors, are colored by the way the tech giant’s algorithms and advertising systems work — “I want the best advice, from the best doctors — not the doctor, not the clinic who can spend the most on advertising.”
Six years ago, federal watchdogs wrapped up an antitrust investigation into Google’s search and advertising practices and opted against bringing major penalties against the company, including breaking it up. Regulators around the world, however, have been more skeptical of Google: The European Union has issued the company $9 billion in competition-related fines over the past three years.
The attorneys general’s investigation marks the latest regulatory headache for Google and the rest of Silicon Valley, which have faced growing criticism — and widening state and federal scrutiny — into whether they’ve grown too big and powerful, undermining rivals and resulting in costlier or worse service for web users. Other probes include:
- The Department of Justice and FTC also are scrutinizing Big Tech. DOJ has taken early interest in Google, and recently issued its first legal demand for records.
- Another group of 11 state attorneys general — led by New York’s Letitia James — has begun their own probe against Facebook, on whether it violates competition laws and mishandles consumers’ personal information.
Some state leaders said they are working closely with their federal counterparts as these investigations unfold. But Karl Racine, the Democratic attorney general for D.C. and a participant in both the Facebook and Google probes, said he and the other state attorneys general wouldn’t hesitate to forge ahead if Washington once again opts against taking action against the tech giants: “The state attorneys general, they are an independent bunch, and they can be quite tenacious. So I’m very confident that this bipartisan group is going to be led by the facts, and not be swayed by any conclusion, that may fall short, if you will, if it’s inconsistent with our facts, on the [federal] side.”