The US Justice Department is said to have spent several weeks preparing for a probe of the US tech giant, Google.
In what seems as an imminent antitrust investigation pertaining to its search business and potentially other aspects of the company, which has grown into a massive software and services empire, could will have far-reaching impact on the entire US and even global tech industry just as the US and China redraw the lines of global businesses and systems.
The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all confirmed that a probe regarding antitrust was taking place. After an investigation in 2013, Google was checked in detail by the FTC but closed the case after not taking any action against the search giant.
However, now the US Department of Justice is leading a charge on a new and potentially unprecedented antitrust evaluation of the company. And despite coming under constant pressure in Europe, in the US, Google has gone largely unscathed, even as it has rallied to the level of Facebook in its dominant digital advertising position.
Google has faced EU officials who have saddled it with billions in fines and in one case, caused Google to separate Chrome and Search from Android in the region. The most recent case was for $1.7 billion. For the US, the DoJ says there must be “credible evidence” of anti-competitive practices before corrective measures are issued.
Remember that is was back in the early 2000s that antitrust laws were the driving force in the United States v Microsoft Corporation, a battle in which it was said that investigators and of course the US government accused Microsoft of illegally maintaining its monopoly position in the PC market – antitrust laws are seldom used in the United States but are deadly.
Right now, the number of controversies that Google has gotten itself into are growing. Despite avoiding the heat from the fake news and election issues that have dogged both Facebook and Twitter, Google is now fighting issues of child exploitation on Youtube, a Pentagon drone project and ethical considerations in China deals.
But the questions are now rising. Both Google and Facebook have been allowed to grow to such immense size and influence, and with little to no impediments or challenges from regulators, that the public now seems to be turning on these massive tech machines.
And more recently, Tim Cook of Apple has been – not naming – but openly attacking large tech names for privacy issues that clearly impact, as he puts it, our private lives and freedoms. If this is a sign that the tech giants are turning on each other, it will only get much worse as they fight for market share.
Anti-trust is historically the most effective and sometime permanent tool that the federal government has to break up a monopoly or strike a death blow to an industry that is working against the people.
Surely the boards of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are consulting their armies of lawyers and preparing for the assault.