With Democratic state attorneys general preferring to stand on the sidelines for now, the Trump administration is reportedly expected to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google next week.
The Department of Justice has been laying the groundwork for this suit for months, and has sought to create a unified front with both Republicans and Democrats standing against the tech giant, according to Politico.
However, citing unnamed sources, Politico reported that Democratic attorneys general are not likely to join the suit when it is filed next week.
Axios linked uncertain Democratic participation to the upcoming presidential election. Politico reported some states have a different approach than the Department of Justice, and for now will go their own way.
A number of states “are preparing to issue a joint public statement indicating they are still scrutinizing a wide array of Google’s business practices and may instead opt to join any federal case later,” The Washington Post reported, citing four unnamed sources.
“The states leading the probe into Google include Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. It is not clear how many of their attorneys general intend to sign the expected, forthcoming statement, which sources cautioned could still change.”
However, Politico reported that Nebraska Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson is expected to join multiple Democratic attorney generals in their lawsuit.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, has criticized Democrats who refuse to team up with the DOJ in the federal action against Google.
“Any Democratic attorney general unfortunately who wouldn’t take action in this case I think is being hypocritical,” he told Bloomberg last month.
Landry called sitting out the first major antitrust lawsuit in decades “pure politics” and asked, “Can you find me an instance under which a Democrat is happy with anything this administration does?”
“I can’t fathom an excuse why a state would not want to join.”
The federal suit is expected to allege that Google has used restrictive contracts with companies that make smartphones and service providers to ensure that Google is the default search engine on devices using the Android operating system, according to Politico.
“Although these four corporations differ in important ways, studying their business practices has revealed common problems,” the report said. “First, each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution. By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy.
“They not only wield tremendous power, but they also abuse it by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contract terms, and extracting valuable data from the people and businesses that rely on them. Second, each platform uses its gatekeeper position to maintain its market power.
“By controlling the infrastructure of the digital age, they have surveilled other businesses to identify potential rivals, and have ultimately bought out, copied, or cut off their competitive threats,” it added. “And, finally, these firms have abused their role as intermediaries to further entrench and expand their dominance. Whether through self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or exclusionary conduct, the dominant platforms have exploited their power in order to become even more dominant.
“To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” the committee’s report said. “Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price.
“These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it — a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”
The report said it found “significant evidence that these firms wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and diverse press.
“The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy.”
“There’s something very disturbing about what’s going on” in terms of Big Tech companies censoring content, he said,
There is a “concentration of these very large companies that have that kind of influence on the sharing of information and viewpoints on our society,” he said.
“Our republic was founded on the idea, and the whole rationale was that there’d be a lot of diversity of voices and it would be hard for someone to be able to galvanize, big faction in the United States that could dominate politically and oppress a minority, and yet now we have with the internet and with these big concentrations of power, the ability to do just that, to quickly galvanize people’s views because they’re only presenting one viewpoint and they can push the public in a particular direction very quickly,” Barr contended.
“Our whole Constitution insists the system was based on not having that and having a wide diversity of voices,” he said, adding that “one way this can be addressed is through the antitrust laws and challenging companies that engage in monopolistic practices.”
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