The Justice Department may be preparing to launch an antitrust investigation into Google, according to reports.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the department has been in talks with the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust task force about launching a probe into the tech giant’s search and business operations. Following discussions over which should proceed with a new antitrust investigation-the FTC previously investigated Google but closed the case in 2013-the Journal said the two have agreed to the Justice Department leading any new probe into the company.
Separately, the New York Times also reported on the investigation, though the paper’s report hedged slightly by stating that the Justice Department was “exploring” a probe rather than preparing one. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Times reported that the trade commission has recently directed complaints about the company to the Justice Department. According to the Journal, officials with the department have already spoken with some of these parties.
A spokesperson for Google did not immediately return a request for comment about the report. Neither the Justice Department nor the FTC returned comment requests.
According to the Times, the potential probe comes after the FTC’s antitrust task force began looking into Google’s ad and search practices. The task force, announced in February, was established to investigate possible anticompetitive conduct among tech companies. FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement at the time that “it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”
“Our ongoing Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century are a crucial step to deepen our understanding of these markets and potential competitive issues. The Technology Task Force is the next step in that effort,” he added.
The reported probe would come as tech monopolies face increasingly louder condemnation from political critics who claim that they wield far too much power and engage in anticompetitive tactics by either gobbling up competitors or crushing their business. (The company has faced billions in fines from European regulators over antitrust abuses.) Chief among these critics in the U.S. is Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate who has called for breaking up Facebook, Google, and Amazon-tech giants she says have “too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.”
“I want a government that makes sure everybody - even the biggest and most powerful companies in America - plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish,” she said in March. “To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.”