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Google Is at the Center of a Storm Brewing Over Big Tech – The New York Times

Google Is at the Center of a Storm Brewing Over Big Tech – The New York Times

ImageThat the Justice Department is exploring an investigation of Google underlines a major shift in the United States’ attitude toward the big technology companies.CreditCreditAmy Osborne/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSAN FRANCISCO — Google, one of the most successful companies in history, has generally gotten its way with American regulators. That may be changing.Politicians on the right and left are decrying the tech company’s enormous power. President Trump and other Republicans have focused on whether the company’s online search results are biased. Democrats have focused on whether the company stifles competition. And now, the Justice Department is exploring an investigation of the advertising and search firm, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions.It is a small and preliminary step, and it could easily come to nothing. But if the agency pursues a case, it will almost certainly inspire reams of bad publicity, promote consumer distrust, sink employee morale and remind everyone that Google, with its early motto of “Don’t be evil,” held itself to standards it sometimes could not match.A prospect that should really worry Google is a replay of the government’s case against Microsoft in the 1990s. Microsoft did not have to break itself into two, which was the government’s goal. But the company was distracted for at least a decade, which allowed space for start-ups like Google. Microsoft’s reputation took a dive.“The damage to the monopolist’s position comes from the public airing of the facts,” said Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer who was instrumental in the case against Microsoft and has worked with companies that argue they have suffered unfair competition from Google.Even without a formal government investigation, Google’s reputation started to fray over the weekend as politicians jumped on the news.“It’s time to fight back,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a popular condender for the Democratic nomination for president. Senators Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, each said the scrutiny was overdue.The White House did not respond to questions about whether the president would support an investigation by the Justice Department. But according to two people familiar with his thinking, Mr. Trump would probably welcome any action.Mr. Trump, like many other Republicans, has repeatedly complained publicly that Google suppresses positive news about conservatives in search results. He has also criticized big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.Google, whose parent company is Alphabet, declined to comment, as did representatives for the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.Like Amazon, Apple and Facebook, Google is awash in cash, data and ambition, and increasingly controversial. The F.T.C. announced in February an antitrust task force to look at the technology field. But in an unusual move, the commission has now agreed to give oversight of Google to the Justice Department. That puts pressure on the department’s head of antitrust, Makan Delrahim, to follow through with a robust investigation.In the past, Mr. Delrahim has said that “credible evidence” would need to exist before antitrust officials would step in. Inside the White House, broader discussions about regulating Google have not taken place, one of the people close to Mr. Trump said Saturday. But that person said that Mr. Delrahim had built up “a lot of authority” in the Trump administration, and that there would be comfort with what the agency recommends.In exchange for the Justice Department’s claim over the antitrust issues related to Google, the F.T.C. took over antitrust oversight of Amazon, according to two people familiar with the decision.The online retailing giant has been criticized for using its massive online sales site to edge out competitors and harm third-pa
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Source link : The New York Times

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Publish date : 2019-06-02T09:00:10Z

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