Jun 4, 2020 - Technology

Regulators solicited input on Google antitrust fixes from search rival

Illustration of a spotlight on the Google logo.

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Federal and state antitrust enforcers have been gathering thoughts from privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo about potential remedies to address competitive harms stemming from Google's dominance in search.

Why it matters: The Justice Department and states are reportedly preparing to bring antitrust cases against Google this year. The remedies they're feeling out now could feature in the concessions they may seek from Google, either in court or through a settlement.

Details: DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg told Axios that antitrust investigators have been asking about a push from the company to force Google to create a preference menu for Android users to easily switch to a different search provider.

  • Google created such a menu after the European Union's $5 billion fine against the company over competition concerns involving the Android mobile operating system.
  • Weinberg says DuckDuckGo has issues with how Google has gone about deploying that menu in the EU, but it has told U.S. regulators that it would nevertheless be one way to address some of "Google's monopoly issues" very quickly, including potentially through a settlement that would avoid a drawn-out court battle.
  • "The U.S has the opportunity to leapfrog the EU and do it right," Weinberg said.

The other side: "We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and (Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton), and we don’t have any updates or comments on speculation," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition."

Flashback: The Federal Trade Commission previously investigated Google's search practices but closed its probe in 2013 without taking enforcement action.

  • Weinberg said the market has shifted since then and he believes search is worth another look. His company received a civil investigative demand last year from the Justice Department that asked questions about search as part of the Google probe.
  • "All I can say is, there's interest and so that should mean something," Weinberg said.
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