The U.S. Justice Department Plans to Launch Antitrust Case Against Google

An antitrust inquiry into Google just before the election is underway. Can this politicized move actually put the tech giant’s dominance in check? 

What Happened:

Attorney General William Barr is pushing for an antitrust case to be brought against Alphabet, the $1 trillion parent company of Google and YouTube. The inquiry began in June 2019, and has had dozens of Justice Department lawyers on the case, many of whom were told to conclude their work by the end of September. 

Concerns have emerged from the legal team as to whether they have built a sufficient case in the past 15 months. 

Why it Matters:

2020 Election Stunt

Barr’s move for a September deadline raises questions about the Trump administration’s motivations for the antitrust inquiry. 

Taking a stance against the big tech firm just before the 2020 election would rally Trump’s base. He claims that Google suppresses conservative voices, including his own, and favors liberal media outlets who he believes are biased against him.

On the other hand, the antitrust case has strong bipartisan support, as demonstrated by a coalition of 50 states and territories. Launching the case now would help the Trump campaign take credit for bringing this inquiry to fruition and appeal to a broader electorate. 

Debate Over the Inquiry’s Focus

In addition to discord over the rushed timeline, lawyers and state attorney generals are split on whether to file a complaint solely on Google’s advertising or include its search functions too. Proponents for the dual approach believe it would present a stronger case. 

Past antitrust regulation and ongoing investigations in Europe that focused on Google’s dominance in search and unfair commercial practices have resulted in more than $10 billion in penalties

Alphabet’s Dominance Within Big Tech

Collectively, Google, Google Maps, and YouTube integrate online advertising into web searches, finding directions, and watching videos. In recent years, Google has further entrenched its web search dominance as a default browser on Android phones. Furthermore, user searches and information collected by Alphabet helps create more targeted online advertising.