This story was updated at 9 p.m. to include a statement from Google.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is one of 50 state attorneys general investigating possible anticompetitive behavior by Google.
The initial focus of the antitrust investigation will look into whether Google is prioritizing search results for companies that pay to advertise with it. Schmitt said that this could be shutting out competitors, especially small businesses, and hurting the free market for consumers.
“CIDs were issued today to Google, which essentially are, sort of, subpoenas to find out information and to get the facts,” Schmitt said after a press conference Monday in Washington, D.C. “And let the facts lead us where they’re going to lead us and not to prejudge them, but to get as much information as we can about what’s behind the curtain here.”
Other big tech companies, like Facebook, have received similar criticism, but this investigation will only apply to Google for now.
Schmitt said he was unsure how long the investigation will last, but expects it “to take some time.”
Former Missouri Attorney General and now U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley launched his own investigation into possible misuse of user data by Google and Facebook in 2017. In a statement, he said he was “heartened” to see a new group of attorneys general looking into big tech companies like Google.
It’s going to be a very bad day for @google. Less than 2 years after I launched the first state antitrust investigation of Google (as Missouri Attorney General), more than 40 state AGs are joining a coalition to hold Google accountable https://t.co/qZ1o2eq1OX
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 9, 2019
In an email, the Google communications team sent a statement from Kent Walker, chief legal officer at Google. The statement reads, in part: "We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so."