NC Attorney General Josh Stein announces deal with phone companies to combat robocalls
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said Monday that he was joining a multi-state investigation into the business practices of tech giant Google, citing concerns over the company’s dominance in digital advertising.
It is now the second investigation against a titan of the tech industry that Stein has joined alongside other state attorneys general, as the country’s politicians begin taking a closer look at the economic influence of some internet companies.
Stein is also part of a separate investigation into the business practices of Facebook.
In the Google investigation, Stein joins a coalition of 50 attorneys general looking at Google’s moves in online advertising and search traffic to “suppress competition, violate antitrust laws and harm consumers.” Joining the investigation was every state, except for Alabama and Google’s home state of California, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
He joined nine other attorneys general in the Facebook investigation into antitrust concerns.
The U.S. Justice Department is also looking into the business practices of Google as well as Facebook and Amazon.
In a statement, Stein called the internet a “critical infrastructure of the 21st Century” that was being “dominated” by a handful of companies.
“When companies in any industry get too powerful and too big, they can use their power and size to harm people and damage markets,” he added. “Antitrust laws help us ensure that people get the best services and prices, that their privacy is respected, and that they benefit from competition that fosters the next generation of technology.
“I joined in this bipartisan investigation to take a look at this massive company to make sure that it is not engaged in business practices that hurt consumers and stifle competitors.”
In a press conference in Washington, D.C., a group of the state attorneys general said they would focus their investigation first into the online advertising practices of Google.
“This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet as they dominate the buyers’ side, the sellers’ side, the auction side and even the video side with YouTube,” Texas’ Republican Attorney General, Ken Paxton, said at the press conference, The Hill reported.
Paxton, who is leading the investigation, noted the investigation is not a lawsuit, but a search for the facts. “But the facts will lead to where the facts lead,” he said.
Google, which is a subsidiary of the company Alphabet, has dominated the online advertising market in recent years and has one of the dominant infrastructures for placing ads online.
The attorneys general said they were worried that this could be raising costs for businesses and consumers.
According to the online research firm eMarketer, Google and Facebook do indeed dominate the online advertising world, with an estimated 59% control of the market in 2019. That market share is worth a combined $77 billion, eMarketer said.
In a blog post, Google said its businesses “help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States.”
The company added that it looks forward “to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.”
In the past, Google has faced many antitrust lawsuits from the European Union, though the company escaped an antitrust investigation from the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. in 2013.
Last week, the company agreed to pay a record $170 million fine to the FTC and the state of New York for knowingly violating children’s privacy rights on its video platform YouTube. The site had used personal information from children that had used its site to target them with advertisements, a violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, The New York Times reported.
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