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Justice Department prepares to open antitrust probe into Google

A picture taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers' screens. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

The Justice Department is preparing to open an antitrust investigation into Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The move comes after the Justice Department reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that scrutiny of the company would fall to the department’s antitrust division, according to two people familiar with the matter. The people declined to be identified in order to discuss a confidential matter.

Representatives of Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.

American antitrust officials are under pressure from lawmakers in both parties and advocates of tougher enforcement to step up scrutiny of technology giants like Google and Facebook Inc. While European officials have aggressively pursued antitrust cases against American tech firms, the U.S. has been mostly hands-off.

That may be changing amid continuing criticism that lax enforcement in the U.S. has allowed tech platforms to dominate their markets. The FTC earlier this year set up a task force to examine the conduct of tech companies and their past mergers. Trump and many Republicans have complained that Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc. suppress conservative views.

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Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with state officials about technology companies. His replacement, William Barr, said at his Senate confirmation hearing that said he wanted to learn more about how “huge behemoths” in Silicon Valley “have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers.”

The FTC previously investigated Google for skewing search results. The agency decided to close that case in 2013 without taking action, a decision criticized by those who said the search giant was using it dominance to harm competition.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported on the U.S. plan to open an investigation.

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.