Lawmakers from across the political spectrum lauded the Justice Department for hitting Google with a major antitrust lawsuit on Tuesday, remarks that highlight the breadth of bipartisan concern in Washington over the power the tech giant wields online.
A broad coalition: Progressive Democrats, populist Republicans and even libertarian-leaning conservatives voiced support for the DOJ suit, the first major U.S. monopolization case in decades. The DOJ and 11 Republican attorneys general filed the legal complaint in Washington, D.C., federal court, accusing Google of abusing its dominance in the online search market to crowd out competitors.
House antitrust subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.), whose panel issued a sweeping report accusing Google and other tech giants of abusing their monopoly power earlier this month, called the lawsuit a step “long overdue” in a tweet.
“It is critical that the Justice Department’s lawsuit focuses on Google’s monopolization of search and search advertising, while also targeting the anticompetitive business practices Google is using to leverage this monopoly into other areas, such as maps, browsers, videos and voice assistants,” said Cicilline, a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the libertarian-leaning chair of the counterpart Senate antitrust subcommittee, likewise called the suit “an encouraging sign in our country’s ongoing battle against the pernicious influence of Big Tech” in a statement.
How times have changed: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who as the Missouri attorney general launched a state probe into Google’s competitive practices in 2017, called the DOJ lawsuit a “major development” in the government’s approach to the company’s dominance online.
“Three years ago I couldn’t get a single fellow state attorney general to join my antitrust investigation into Google, not one, Republican or Democrat,” Hawley, an outspoken tech critic and prominent ally to President Donald Trump, said on a call with reporters.
A notable caveat: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said in a statement that she is “pleased that the Justice Department is finally taking action” on years of complaints that Google has abused its dominance in search to squelch competitors.”
But she said the “questionable timing of the suit so close to the election” could undermine efforts to rein in the tech giant’s conduct.
“While the lawsuit is an important start, it will likely be passed to a new Attorney General, as well as state attorney generals across the country,” she said. “It will be on them to finish the job and get real results.”
The DOJ’s lawsuit is notably lacking the backing of any Democratic AGs, who are forging ahead with a separate complaint against the tech giant with other Republican state regulators that could be unveiled in coming weeks.
Efforts to combine those complaints ran into political headwinds earlier this year partly because U.S. Attorney General William Barr pushed to file the case ahead of the November election, as POLITICO reported. By filing the lawsuit now, the DOJ is setting it into motion regardless of whether President Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win the November election.
Google’s response: The tech giant called the DOJ’s lawsuit “deeply flawed” in a statement, adding: “People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
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