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Justice Department, several states planning antitrust lawsuit against Google

The Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are expected to hit Google with an antitrust lawsuit this summer, according to a pair of blockbuster reports released Friday — targeting the tech company’s stranglehold on the advertising industry.

The lawsuit is likely the result of an investigation that began in September, when all 50 U.S. states announced an antitrust probe into the company, focusing on its advertising practices and its control over internet search.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Justice Department plans to make the tech giant’s “ad technology” the main point of emphasis, while more broadly playing on the point that Google uses its web dominance to effectively crush out any other competitors.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the initial investigation, said Google has already been subpoenaed, as well as “impacted third parties.”

Paxton told The Wall Street Journal that the suit is likely to come this year. Information is still being gathered, however, and despite the coronavirus pandemic, Attorney General William Barr doesn’t expect a delay. Barr told the publication in March that the lawsuit would come to “fruition early summer.”

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, a Google spokesperson said the company will continue to comply with the investigation by the Justice Department and declined to give any “updates or comments on speculation.”

“Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition.”

The New York Times confirmed the Journal’s report, citing two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. The regulators are focused on Google’s dominance in the online advertising industry, the Times confirmed, and the case will also involve allegations that the company abused its dominant position in online search to harm competitors, the people said.

It is still unclear whether individual states will have to follow suit, or hop on the federal case once it is filed. Litigation is still a possibility, but there has not been any indication of that yet, according to the outlet.

Last summer, the Justice Department announced that it would be opening a broad antitrust investigation into the nation’s largest tech companies, which included Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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