WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice’s impending lawsuit towards Google has narrowed to focus on the corporate’s energy over web search, a choice that might set off a cascade of separate lawsuits from states in ensuing weeks over the Silicon Valley big’s dominance in different enterprise segments.
In displays to state attorneys normal beginning on Wednesday, the division is predicted to define its authorized case centered on how Google makes use of its dominant search engine to hurt rivals and shoppers, stated 4 folks with information of the plan, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of the small print have been confidential. Meeting with the state attorneys normal is likely one of the closing steps earlier than the division information its swimsuit towards the corporate, they stated.
The Justice Department’s motion towards Google is about to be narrower than what some states and several other profession attorneys within the division had envisioned. The division additionally investigated Google’s attain in advert expertise and the way the corporate costs and locations advertisements throughout the web. But in an effort to file a case by the top of September, the company determined to decide the piece that was furthest alongside in authorized idea and that it felt may finest face up to a possible problem in courtroom.
The division has not written the ultimate draft of its criticism towards Google, and the doc is predicted to change over the following few days to replicate inside deliberations and enter from constituents just like the state attorneys normal. Suing Google would fulfill a push by Attorney General William P. Barr to take motion towards a tech big across the finish of September, an effort that has taken on larger urgency forward of the Nov. three election as President Trump fights for a second time period.
The Justice Department and 48 states agreed to open their investigations into Google’s dominance a year ago as a bipartisan effort, but the last-minute jostling about what is included in the cases and how they should play out has exposed political fault lines. The department is seeking support of the search case and is set to file a lawsuit even without bipartisan support from state attorneys general, two people with knowledge of the plan said.
On Wednesday, Republican state attorneys general will also attend a meeting with Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr over concerns of censorship by social media companies, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.
If Mr. Barr brings the case by the end of this month, he will override lawyers who worked on the investigation and who said they needed more time to bring what they considered to be a strong lawsuit.
Mr. Trump has supported efforts to restrain the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Last summer, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission opened antitrust investigations into the four tech companies, which combined are valued at more than $5 trillion. The investigations were buttressed by state investigations and a separate House inquiry into alleged monopoly abuses by the four giants.
The Justice Department and Google declined to comment.
The department’s complaint could come as early as next week and is expected to start a multipronged battle against Google, the search giant owned by Alphabet. While details are still being completed, the case on search is expected to focus on Google’s agreements with other companies like Apple, which set its search engine as the default option for users on iPhones and other devices. Those agreements give Google’s search engine an advantage over other rivals.
The complaint is expected to be followed by other antitrust actions against Google by the end of the year, according to people with knowledge of the plans by the department and states.
Separately, an investigation by state attorneys general of Google’s behavior in digital advertising — the source of virtually all of Alphabet’s $34 billion in annual profit — is nearly complete. That investigation, led by Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas, is expected to result in a suit accusing Google of using tactics that have undermined competition in the market for online advertising, a person briefed on the inquiry said.
That suit, the person said, should be ready to be filed soon, with the Justice Department potentially joining as a plaintiff but with Texas taking the lead. A spokeswoman for Mr. Paxton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There is also the potential for an additional, broader suit by the states, led by Phil Weiser, the Democratic attorney general of Colorado. It would include more wide-ranging allegations of Google using its dominance of the search market to favor its shopping and other services, the person said.
That investigation is still in progress, and a case, if filed, would come later than the other two, the person said. Mr. Weiser declined to comment.
Google controls about 90 percent of web searches globally, and rivals have complained that the company extended that power by making its search and browsing tools the defaults on many smartphones. Google also captures about one-third of every dollar spent on online advertising, and its ad tools are used to supply and auction ads that appear across the internet.
The contracts Google reaches with other tech companies to serve as a default search engine have already attracted attention internationally, in inquiries that may provide a preview into the argument by the Justice Department.
Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said in a report this summer that the scale of Google’s payments to mobile phone makers like Apple for its search engine to be the default on those devices was “striking and demonstrates the value that Google places on these default positions.” The regulator also found that those agreements were “a barrier to expansion for other search engines.”
Cecilia Kang and Katie Benner reported from Washington, Steve Lohr from New York and Daisuke Wakabayashi from Oakland, Calif. David McCabe contributed reporting from Washington.