Mar 10, 2020 - Technology

Senators call for antitrust review of Google search practices

Google logo with a spotlight on part of it

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A bipartisan pair of senators, in a letter Tuesday, are urging the Justice Department to investigate Google's search operations as well as its advertising business.

The big picture: The letter from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) comes as the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee holds a Tuesday hearing on ways that digital platforms favor themselves over their competitors.

Details: Hawley and Blumenthal, both members of the Judiciary Committee and former state attorneys general, cite recent reports indicating the Justice Department is focusing its antitrust investigation into Google on the company's advertising business.

  • But the senators tell Attorney General Willam Barr that Google's search operations merit scrutiny as well. "Narrowing the investigation’s focus such that Google’s anticompetitive practices to dominate the online search market is not captured does a grave disservice to consumers," they wrote.

What's next: Luther Lowe, Yelp's senior vice president of public policy, will testify at the hearing that Google has biased its search results to favor its own products to the detriment of Yelp and consumers.

  • In written testimony, Lowe also notes "concerning reports" that the DOJ is focusing narrowly on Google's ad business. "You can't look at Standard Oil without looking at oil; you cannot investigate Google without looking at search," Lowe wrote.
  • In response to Yelp's testimony, a Google spokesperson said in a statement, "We build Google Search for our users. Our users tell us they want quick access to information, and we're constantly innovating Search to help people easily find what they’re looking for."
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