Justice Department, states to meet in possible prelude to Google antitrust suit

Leah Nylen
·2 mins read

The Justice Department and state attorneys general will meet Thursday and Friday in the hopes of finishing an antitrust complaint against Google that could be filed as soon as next week, according to four people involved in the discussions.

Why it's important: DOJ and the states have separately been probing the tech giant since last year over allegations that it unfairly dominates the search market and the technology for buying and selling display advertising online. But the two groups have yet to come to a consensus on what allegations to include, whether the case should involve one or two suits and what federal court to file in — key strategic decisions that could affect the success of the yearslong investigation. The discussions have become more complicated as the election nears, with some Democratic attorneys general pushing to continue the investigation past Nov. 3.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Some of the same people will meet on Wednesday: Republican attorneys general from several states will visit the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Donald Trump about a 1996 online-liability law that the White House is seeking to pare back as part of the administration’s crusade against what it alleges is anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley. Attorneys general from four states — Texas, Indiana, Missouri and Louisiana — are supporting one key aspect of Trump’s efforts , a request for the FCC to decide when online companies qualify for the congressionally provided immunity for user-posted content.

At least two of the AGs who will attend the White House meeting plan to attend some of the Justice Department meetings in person this week, while the rest will attend virtually.

What's next: Once the Justice Department finishes its complaint against Google, state attorneys general will have a deadline to decide whether they want to join the Justice Department in what could become one of the biggest U.S. antitrust battles in decades. People familiar with the case told POLITICO in June that DOJ prosecutors expected to file the case in the coming months, once they got final sign-off from Attorney General William Barr.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. A Google spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

When asked to comment on the meeting with Republican AGs, White House spokesperson Judd Deere responded: "Online censorship goes far beyond the issue of free speech, it’s also one of protecting consumers and ensuring they are informed of their rights and resources to fight back under the law. State attorneys general are on the front lines of this issue and President Trump wants to hear their perspectives."