The Justice Department Is Readying Antitrust Charges Against Google
Big Tech has been under a legal microscope recently as many have speculated that these companies are getting to big for the American consumer's good. There has been speculation that the federal government may take antitrust action against companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google. Now, the Department of Justice has indicated that it plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google. If this case comes into being, it will be a momentous landmark for technology in the U.S. as this would be the first major action against a tech company in two decades.
Barr Is Pushing to File the Charges Now
While the potential antitrust matter has gotten caught up in the political climate of election, sources have reported that Attorney General William Barr intends to file an antitrust action against Google sometime in September. Career Justice Department prosecutors have told Barr that they want to wait longer to file the case in order to build the evidence. Instead, Barr is said to be rushing to bring the matter forward, partially in a desire to satisfy the White House. There is talk that Barr wants to be able to file the case before the election so that he can take credit for it. DOJ officials have told lawyers to conclude their work on the case by the end of the month so the charges can be filed.
The political issue is not whether to bring charges. There is universal support across the aisle for an antitrust action against Google. The dispute centers on when to file the charges. Many favor waiting until the strongest possible case can be built. The worst thing that can happen is that the government files an antitrust action against Google and loses.
The antitrust issues relate to both the search and advertising businesses of the company. Google is alleged to use anticompetitive practices to dominate both of these businesses. In particular, Google's control of internet searches allows it to bundle numerous businesses together and strangle other competition. The government investigation into Google's business practices have purportedly turned up evidence of improper business practices. Google allegedly used its search business to strangle any possible competition. In addition, Google is also under investigation for actions taken by Google Networks. This division handles all steps of advertising and sells related services to businesses.
All of Big Tech Is Watching What Happens
If DOJ is successful and Google is broken up into smaller pieces, it will have massive ramifications for the U.S. tech industry. This will likely not be the last antitrust action against Big Tech as Google will likely be the test case. The prevailing thought is that Big Tech has just gotten too large, and the consumer is beginning to suffer.
Of course, you can expect that any legal battle surrounding a possible breakup of Google will take years to materialize. Google will fight these charges with everything that they have as their entire existence is at stake. The legal battles surrounding Microsoft and its antitrust cases took years to resolve. The same goes from the breakup of AT&T into the "Baby Bells." If DOJ appears to be winning, you can expect other Big Tech companies to start taking steps on their own to head off future legal risks. These will include spinoffs and other asset sales. Their thinking would be that it is better to do this on their own terms than to wait to be ordered to do so by DOJ.
Even with the evidence that has been collected, bringing an antitrust case against Google will not be easy. DOJ is said to have assembled powerful email evidence of illegal conduct. However, there are multiple steps between email evidence and the breakup of a large company. Google would certainly argue that its size and centralized way to access the internet provides a benefit for companies that are on its platform. Their argument would be that the consumer ultimately benefits from the one-stop shopping experience that Google gives people trying to access the internet. However, the government would likely frame the case in terms of coercion, and that companies are forced to do business with Google because they have no other choice.
The one certainty is that, even if Barr rushes the case and files it now, the next Administration would continue to pursue it if there is a change in power. Opposition to Big Tech is a bipartisan issue.
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