State attorneys general met with the Justice Department on Friday to make preparations for an anticipated antitrust case against Google. However, sources say that search bias — which is crucial to Google’s ability to sway elections and control the flow of political information — is not yet a major part of the DoJ’s case.
Politico reported on the gathering of state AGs and the Justice Department ahead of the meeting on Friday. Politico’s report suggests that the focus is currently on the criticisms of Google from its corporate competitors, namely its dominance of the digital ads market and its alleged tendency to favor its own products and services.
Unlike previous probes into the tech company, prosecutors started by analyzing Google’s control over the technology used to serve, buy and sell the online advertising that funds many websites. News publishers and other advertisers have complained about Google’s dominance in the “ad tech” market.
— Search 2.0: Investigators have also looked into areas where Google faced a previous investigation by the FTC and European authorities over giving advantages to its own products and exclusive contracts that require Google as the default browser on smartphones that use Android. At Friday’s meeting, prosecutors are expected to debate how broad or narrow the case against Google could be and what allegations they might include in a complaint.
According to a later piece on Politico, prosecutors are “still discussing whether to include other aspects of Google’s conduct related to search.” As it currently stands, the case is expected to include an investigation of Google’s dominance in ads and allegations that it has attempted to forge a search monopoly through contracts with smartphone manufacturers.
According to a source familiar with the discussions between the DoJ and the state AGs, if the antitrust case were filed today, it would not include any significant focus on search bias.
This is likely to anger companies like TripAdvisor and lastminute.com, which have been accusing Google of biasing its search results to favor its own travel services for many years.
It also means that Google’s political search bias — which has the potential to massively sway the outcome of democratic elections — would also not come under scrutiny.
This is why Search should be included in DOJ antitrust investigation, and I’ve called on AG Barr to do so https://t.co/Lzliw7GMpu
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 16, 2020
Attorney General William Barr has yet to make his final decision on whether or not to file a DOJ case against Google, meaning that search bias could still be added to the case. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has said he has called on Barr to include search within the investigation’s scope.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.