There have been threats of this making the rounds for some time now, but it seems as if we’re getting down to brass tacks. Can Google actually be hit with anti-trust charges? We may be about to find out. Almost all of the state Attorneys General in the country have joined together to open up investigations into the tech giant’s business dealings and determine if they’re in violation of anti-trust laws. National Review has the details.
Attorneys general representing 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, announced the opening of a sweeping anti-trust investigation into Google on Monday from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, who will help lead the probe with eight fellow attorneys general, accused Google of “dominat[ing] all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” while announcing the broad investigation, the Washington Post reported. The probe will focus on whether Google’s all encompassing business model unlawfully harms competition and consumers…
Google is already facing anti-trust scrutiny at the federal level from Congress and the Department of Justice. In an investor filing released Friday, the company revealed that the DOJ filed a mandatory request for information as part of its broader anti-trust review of tech giants.
The only two states not participating are California (the home of Google, naturally) and, strangely, Alabama. Every other state, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, is participating.
I’m automatically skeptical of anti-trust cases in almost all circumstances and this one is no different. I’ll be the first to admit that Google is problematic on the best of days and they’ve done plenty of things to justify having grievances against them. Their invasive abuse of user data and the well established liberal bias that permeates their corporate culture are enough to put many of us off our feed.
But are they a monopoly? I think that’s going to be a very difficult case to make. Back in the day, you could see why Ma Bell could be tagged as a monopoly and broken up. They controlled virtually all of the equipment and underlying infrastructure for phone service. Competitors weren’t allowed to use the gear and nobody could afford to duplicate all of the phone lines. A similar claim might be made against large cable television companies who own all the physical lines. More dodgy cases were brought against U.S. Steel and Standard Oil nearly a century ago, but they also had an iron lock on huge industries.
But what infrastructure does Google exercise exclusive control over? The internet? Nope. The web is the playground where they make their money, but they don’t own the spine servers, cable television lines and cell towers people use to access their desired content. Whether it’s Google’s search engine, their email service, video sharing or any of the other thousands of products they offer, they have competition in every sector. There isn’t one service of Google’s that you can’t find a replacement for in a matter of moments if you want to ditch them, and nearly all of them are free.
Some will also argue that Google has acted as a monopoly by buying up so much of the competition and bringing it under their banner. But while that may seem unfair, we need to remember that nobody held a gun to the heads of those startup CEOs and made them sell They took the money and handed the keys over to Google willingly.
The fact is that if Google walks and quacks like a monopoly, it’s because we made them into what they are. They got out on the playing field early and offered products that people wanted to use. They bought up other popular offerings and bundled them together. What’s keeping them on top right now is momentum, and the same applies to the other tech giants like Facebook. This is particularly true in the social media era. Lots of people probably would like to walk away from services like YouTube or Instagram as a matter of principle. But that’s where all your friends are. So most people stay. The same goes for Twitter, though I’d far rather be using Gab.
If the government ends up trying to prosecute or break up Google they will be punishing them for being too successful, not for locking anyone else out. And as much as they may give us plenty to complain about, that’s not something the government should be doing.