WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has taken early steps toward opening a federal antitrust investigation into Google, according to three people familiar with the matter, marking a new chapter in the tech giant's war with regulators around the world who contend the company is too large and threatens rivals and consumers.
The move thrusts Google back under the regulatory microscope in the United States roughly six years after another federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, probed the search and advertising behemoth on grounds that its business practices threatened competitors — yet spared the company from major punishments.
Two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that the Justice Department had reached an agreement with the FTC that scrutiny of the company would now fall to the department’s antitrust division. The people declined to be identified in order to discuss a confidential subject.
The exact focus of the Justice Department’s investigation is not known. The agency, led by Makan Delrahim, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Google declined to comment.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the potential investigation earlier Friday.
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. 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 suppress conservative views.