Ten top senators are demanding the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate anticompetitive practices in Google’s search algorithms following a report from the Wall Street Journal accusing the company of promoting its own service providers, stifling smaller competitors.
“With public venues of all kinds closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now, more than ever, content creators are dependent upon revenues from streaming and other online sources,” the group of bipartisan senators wrote. “Unfortunately, public reporting suggests that some online platforms are using their market dominance to provide preference to their own streaming services, skewing marketplace pricing and competition.”
The letter drew signatories from both sides of the aisle, from the usual agitators of Big Tech, such as Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, to the chamber’s partisan firebrands Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Others who signed the letter include Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, as well as Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
The letter centers on a July article in the Wall Street Journal, which found that “engineers at Google have made changes that effectively preference YouTube over other video sources.” YouTube is owned by the internet search giant.
“While a company favoring its own products, in and of itself, may not always constitute illegal anticompetitive conduct, the Journal further reports that a significant motivation behind this action was to ‘give YouTube more leverage in business deals with content providers,’” the senators wrote to senior officials at the FTC and DOJ. “We ask that you inquire as to whether Alphabet/Google is using its resulting market dominance to gain leverage in business deals with content providers.”
The senators’ requests come just one week after Google CEO Sundar Pichai, alongside executives of Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, faced questions over accusations of anticompetitive practices before congressional lawmakers on the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee.
At the hearing, Pichai admitted the tech giant was trying to monopolize the ad market, using company concerns over user privacy as a defense for Google’s practices phasing out third-party cookies.
Pichai also dodged questions on the sudden blacklisting of conservative websites last month.