Google CEO Sundar Pichai takes the stage during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2016.
Beck Diefenbach | Reuters
The U.S. Justice Department is planning an antitrust investigation into Alphabet’s Google subsidiary, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The effort will touch on web search and other parts of Google, the report said.
The report comes amid discussion from politicians and the public about whether large technology companies should be broken up. The world’s most valuable publicly held companies are U.S. technology companies, Alphabet being one of them.
Alphabet racked up $136.8 billion in revenue in 2018, with 85% of it coming from advertising. Google controls more than 70% of the search engine market, according to NetMarketShare.
Google has faced antitrust pressure in the past.
In 2013 Google said it would change some practices after it agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The FTC had been concerned that some of Google’s business practices could stifle competition
In 2010, the company received an antitrust complaint from the European Commission regarding ranking of shopping search results and ads, which resulted in Google being fined $2.7 billion in 2017, according to Alphabet’s latest annual report. In 2016, the EC complained about practices related to Google’s Android operating system, leading to a $5.1 billion charge in 2018.
And in March the European Union ordered Google to pay around $1.7 billion because of advertising behavior.
President Trump has been critical of big tech, including accusing Google of political bias in its search results. In March, Trump tweeted accusations that Google’s YouTube and Twitter favored Democratic opponents over him and Republicans.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who announced her 2020 presidential candidacy in December, has pressed for breaking up tech companies like Google. In a widely read post published on Medium in March, Warren said she was interested in appointing regulators who would be interested in undoing what she called “anti-competitive mergers,” including Google’s DoubleClick, Nest and Waze. “Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition,” she wrote.
Google and the Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.