Fifty U.S. states and territories, led by Texas, announced an investigation into Google’s “potential monopolistic behavior.”
The Monday announcement closely followed one from a separate group of states Friday, Sept. 6, that disclosed an investigation into Facebook’s market dominance.
The two probes widen the antitrust scrutiny of big tech companies beyond sweeping federal and congressional investigations and enforcement action by European regulators.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, a Republican, said at a press conference held in Washington that 50 attorneys general joining together is a “big deal.”
California and Alabama are not part of the investigation, although it does include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, declined to confirm or deny any state investigation and would not comment on the announcement by the other states.
The news conference featured a dozen Republican attorneys general plus the Democratic attorney general of Washington, D.C.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said, the main question that they are all asking is “whether Google has strayed from its founding principles to not do evil in its search and relentless drive to be the market dominant player.”
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many facets of the internet that it’s fairly impossible to surf the web for long without running into at least one of its services.
Google’s dominance in online search and advertising enables it to target millions of consumers for their personal data. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutlege said, “As a new mom when my daughter is sick and I search online for advice her doctors I want the best advice from the best doctors not the ones not the doctor and not the clinic who can spend the most on advertising.”
Google expects the state authorities will ask the company about past similar investigations in the United States and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday.
Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a $1.7 billion fine in March for unfairly inserting exclusivity clauses into contracts with advertisers, disadvantaging rivals in the online ad business.
One outcome antitrust regulators might explore is forcing Google to spin off search as a separate company, experts said.
Regulators also could focus on areas such as Google’s popular video site YouTube, an acquisition Google scored in 2006.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press