WASHINGTON — Two people familiar with the government’s thinking said Wednesday that the Justice Department is stepping up its investigation into Google’s digital advertising practices and may file an antitrust lawsuit against the internet giant before the end of the year.
Those not authorized to speak publicly said the investigation focused on Google’s power in the digital advertising market and how the company used its dominance in auctions and ad technology to maintain its power. People said that in recent weeks the Department of Justice has called more third parties as witnesses and requested documents and interviews, a sign that it is speeding up the investigation.
The department declined to comment. Google said on Wednesday that there is “enormous competition in advertising tools that make online ads more relevant. discounted faresand expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”
Bloomberg previously reported about potential litigation.
If the Justice Department pursues the case, it will be the federal government’s second lawsuit against Google. In federal court in October, the department filed an antitrust suit He claims that Google is abusing its monopoly in internet search to harm its competitors and consumers.
A second lawsuit would be a show of strength for the Biden administration to curb the power of big tech companies. President Biden has Dedicated reviewers of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to the highest antitrust positions in government. In July, by the name of Jonathan KanterRepresented Google’s competitors Yelp and Microsoft to head the antitrust division of the Department of Justice. Mr. Kanter’s nomination requires Senate approval.
Biden’s antitrust appointments came from decisions made during the Trump administration to file landmark antitrust lawsuits against tech giants. Along with the lawsuit filed against Google for search, the Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook last year, accusing it of abusing its power over social networks. After a judge dropped the case, the FTC re-filed.
Google and the Justice Department initially focused on search, but were also investigating whether the company was abusing its dominance in digital advertising. Dozens of media companies, advertisers and ad technology companies have claimed that Google’s advertising practices are anticompetitive. Google runs various parts of digital ad auctions, including buying ads for marketers and selling ad spaces by publishers.
People familiar with the situation said the agency was investigating allegations that Google and Facebook entered into an illegal agreement to manipulate online auctions.
Texas has filed a lawsuit by several state attorneys general accusing Google of abusing competition in ad technology. It was unclear whether the Justice Department would join the states in their complaints.