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Politics

Department of Justice reportedly preparing Google antitrust investigation

Google's search and other businesses will be investigated by the DOJ, says The Wall Street Journal.

Google logo reflected in eyeball

The DOJ has its eye on Google, says a report.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

The US Department of Justice is preparing to kick off an antitrust investigation of Google, according to a report late Friday by The Wall Street Journal. 

The department is expected to examine Google's search practices, as well as its other businesses, the report said. Though the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google several years ago, this time it'll step aside for the DOJ to conduct the inquiry.

After a two-year investigation wrapped up in 2013, the FTC decided unanimously that Google wasn't violating any antitrust laws, after allegations of biased search results. The DOJ's antitrust division "has been laying the groundwork for the probe" over the last few weeks, the Journal said. 

Neither Google nor the Justice Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

The move by the Justice Department comes as Google and other Silicon Valley giants face renewed antitrust scrutiny in the United States. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, has made it a key part of her platform to break up the big tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon. Earlier this month, Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, also called for the breakup of the company he helped create. 

In February 2018, President Donald Trump had signaled via his Federal Trade Commission leadership choice that he was open to investigating big tech companies.

Former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last September reportedly met with state attorneys general to discuss whether Google and Facebook could be suppressing conservative views, after forming a task force to look into problems in the tech industry. However, once Sessions stepped down in November, the plan to follow up with the Justice Department was shelved.

The Journal report follows reports in March that Google could be facing an investigation over violations of antitrust or consumer protection regulations.

Google has also faced antitrust pressures from regulators in Europe. In March, the search giant was hit with a $1.7 billion fine from the European Commission for "abusive" online ad practices. The Commission said Google exploited its dominance by restricting its rivals from placing their search ads on third-party websites. 

Last year, the EU's executive arm fined Google a record $5 billion for unfair business practices around Android, its mobile operating system. The investigation focused on Google's deals with phone manufacturers, requiring them to preload specific Google apps and services onto Android phones. After the EU announced the fine, Trump tweeted, "I told you so."