Exclusive – Sen. Tom Cotton Presses DOJ to Investigate Google over Potential Antitrust Violations

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is pushing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to probe whether search giant Google is in violation of antitrust laws on a number of fronts, a new letter he wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr provided to Breitbart News exclusively shows.

“In recent weeks, news outlets ​have reported ​that the Department of Justice is nearing a decision about whether to take enforcement action against Google for anticompetitive behavior that violates U.S. antitrust law,” Cotton wrote to Barr, citing a recent Politico report on looming DOJ action against Google. “I ask that the Department also investigate whether Google’s dominance of online searches violates antitrust law”:

Cotton wrote to Barr that Google dominates search volume, citing a report from Business Insider on how the Silicon Valley powerhouse currently has 90 percent of online searches worldwide conducted through its platform. He noted that while the mere fact Google is engaged in “monopolistic behavior” is troubling and warrants Justice Department action, what is “even more alarming” is the fact that Google is using that power for political goals.

“More than ​90% of global searches​ ​are conducted through Google’s search engine, suggesting that Google has a monopoly of internet searches by any objective standard,” Cotton wrote. “While monopolistic behavior alone should warrant Department action, it’s even more alarming that reports suggest Google is using that monopoly to achieve political goals and influence American elections.”

The next paragraph of Cotton’s letter to Barr notes how Google CEO Sundar Pichai has testified that his platform did not manipulate search results for political purposes, but then cites a Breitbart News report on leaked internal documents from inside Google that demonstrate it did exactly that.

“In December 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that Google did not ‘manually intervene’ ​on any search results,” Cotton wrote. “A source from Google, however, later reported to a news outlet that YouTube (owned by Google) ​manipulated search results​ ​related to abortion after a left-wing journalist complained about the prominence of pro-life videos on YouTube. After the journalist’s inquiry, the search results were manipulated to feature more content supporting abortion from left-wing media.”

Cotton also points to Breitbart News and Wall Street Journal investigations that demonstrate how Google is manipulating its systems to block conservative media using blacklists.

“A source from Google has also revealed that Google uses ​’blacklists’ ​and these lists are used to to block conservative media from showing up in ​‘featured snippets,’” Cotton wrote. “​These sites are further limited from showing up in search placements as Google considers them ​‘fringe domains.’ ​Even where a user searches for an exact headline of an article that appears on a blacklisted website, they still may not find it.”

Cotton also cites a study from noted expert Dr. Robert Epstein published in 2015 demonstrating that Google’s actions could significantly affect the outcome of elections.

“Because of Google’s domination of the search engine market, the consequences of Google suppressing conservative views is particularly pernicious,” Cotton wrote. “A ​recent study​, in fact, examined five experiments involving the ‘search engine manipulation effect’ and concluded that ‘biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more[.]’ With the manipulation of these search engine rankings masked, ‘people show no awareness of the manipulation.’ I think you would agree, the idea a monopolistic company can hold such sway over American voters is deeply concerning.”

Cotton concluded the letter by telling Barr he hopes the Justice Department will take swift action to counter these concerns about Google. “I trust the Department of Justice is closely examining all aspects of abuse by Google and will act accordingly,” Cotton wrote.

Cotton’s letter was also signed by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).


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