Beshear joins nation's attorneys general in Google probe

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear

Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear is among 48 state attorneys general, as well as those in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, in launching probes into alleged antitrust violations on the part of Google.

"We have opened an investigation because we have found evidence that Google's practices negatively impacted privacy and put Google in the control of the flow of information," Beshear said. "The internet has become a part of our daily lives and because it has become such a large part of business, entertainment and communication, it is important that the largest companies are operating legally and are not harming consumers or stifling competition."

While being mired in what has become an ideologically contentious gubernatorial race with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, joining into the national fray against Google's suspected illicit practices had nothing to do with party politics, Beshear said.

"This is a bipartisan investigation that we are all doing together," he said. "We (attorneys general) have pulled in all of our respective resources and have divided up the work. In investigations like these, we have proven that we can work together. Like other investigations, it is to determine whether or not the size and practices violate laws that protect competition. When any market gets to the point where others cannot compete, that is where we step in.

"We are going to take an active role, especially in areas that impact Kentuckians. Those areas will develop as the investigation progresses. Numerous small businesses use the internet to advertise their products. We want to ensure that their practices and how they dominate and how they direct searches doesn't put Kentucky businesses at a disadvantage."

The probe, announced on Monday, will initially focus on the advertising market where Google controls 31% of global digital ad dollars and whether or not Google broke antitrust laws, allowing it and parent company Alphabet to gain unfair dominance in the industry. The goal of the investigation, Beshear said, is to focus in on how Google impacts advertising space as well as areas like auctioning for advertising inventory.

"This is an important investigation by the attorney general's office. My expectation is that it will continue whether I am in the position or not," he said.

While Beshear and attorneys general are unified in ensuring the existence a fair and open internet market place, these investigations, like the more than 12-year Microsoft investigation, can last years and be expensive as both sides dig into their respective ideological trenches. This being said, Kentuckians won't pay a dime, Beshear said.

"The cost to conduct the investigation will be absorbed into the existing budget," he said. "Due to the ways we are approaching it, Kentuckians will not spend an extra dollar for us to get to the truth and make sure they are protected."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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