WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has intensified an investigation into Google’s digital advertising practices and may file an antitrust lawsuit against the Internet giant before the end of the year, two people with knowledge of the government’s thinking said on Wednesday.
The investigation focused on Google’s power in the digital advertising market, noting how the company uses its dominance in auctions and advertising technology to maintain its power, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. . In recent weeks, the Justice Department has called more third parties as witnesses and asked for documents and interviews, a sign that it has increased the pace of the investigation, the people said.
The department declined to comment. Google said on Wednesday that there was “heavy competition in advertising tools, which have made online ads more relevant, low fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”
bloomberg previously reported on a possible lawsuit.
If the Justice Department pursues the lawsuit, it would be the federal government’s second action against Google. In federal court in October, the Dept. filed an antitrust lawsuit Alleged that Google abused its monopoly in Internet search to harm rivals and consumers.
A second lawsuit would also be a show of force by the Biden administration to rein in the power of big tech companies. President is Biden Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google appointed critics In the top antitrust positions in the government. in July he Named after Jonathan Contero, who represented Google’s rivals Yelp and Microsoft, to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Mr Kanter’s nomination requires Senate confirmation.
Mr Biden’s antitrust appointments have picked up from decisions made during the Trump administration to bring historic antitrust suits against the tech giants. In addition to the search lawsuit against Google, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit last year accusing Facebook of abusing its power over the social networking. After a judge dismissed the case, the FTC has re-registered it.
With Google, the Justice Department focused first on search, but was also investigating whether the company abused its dominance in digital advertising. Dozens of media companies, advertisers and ad technology companies have claimed that Google’s advertising practices are anti-competitive. Google conducts various parts of digital advertising auctions, including the purchase of ads for marketers and the sale of ad space by publishers.
The agency is investigating allegations that Google and Facebook entered into an illegal settlement to manipulate online auctions, people with knowledge of the situation said.
Texas has led a lawsuit by several state attorneys general accusing Google of abusing competition in advertising technology. It was unclear whether the Justice Department would join the states in their complaint.