Scrutiny of big tech’s power continued on Monday as Google faced the announcement of a new investigation by dozens of state attorneys general into possible antitrust violations.
The bipartisan probe was formally announced Monday afternoon.
A statement by the group of Attorney Generals, released Friday, said that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” The focus of the probe, according to multiple news outlets, will be Google.
Among those who’ve recently criticized the way Google asserts power on its search platform is Jason Fried, CEO and co-founder of the online workplace project management tool Basecamp.
In tweet last week that’s gone viral, Fried explained how if someone searches for Basecamp on Google, the first several results that come up are actually ads paid for by Basecamp competitors.
“When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found,” Fried wrote. “It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom.”
Matt Stoller of the Open Markets institute wrote that Fried captured the “antitrust case against Google in a tweet.”
Speaking about the issue to CNBC last week, Fried said of Google: “They own that [search] platform and they can essentially weaponize it and sell your trademarked brands against you. It feels like it does tie into anti-trust issues.”
The new investigation comes days after a group of states announced that they launched a probe of possible antitrust violations by Facebook.
Writing at The Guardian Monday, Stoller called the pair of investigations “a big deal.”
“No society has ever centralized control of information as we have in big tech,” wrote Stoller, “and this is the first real American strike at the problem.”