VIDEO-Attorney General Barr to launch antitrust case against Google despite warnings from lawyers, report says

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Attorney General William Barr plans to press ahead with a Justice Department antitrust case against Google, perhaps by the end of September.

Mr Barr has reportedly overruled the objections of career lawyers in the department who say that they need more time to build a case against the tech giant, The New York Times reports.

Department officials have told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Google’s parent company Alphabet to finish their work this month.

Most of the legal team opposed such a pressing deadline arguing in a lengthy memo that they would be unable to prepare a strong case in such a short period of time. They worry that a weak case could strengthen Google’s position.

There is disagreement within the team as to how broad an antitrust case should be, and how Google could act to resolve issues turned up by the case.

Career lawyers fear the September deadline is designed to show action against the tech giant ahead of the 2020 election in November. President Donald Trump has accused Google and other tech companies of having a bias against him and conservative voices.

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A senior DoJ official counters that Mr Barr feels the department has been moving too slowly and the deadline is reasonable, The New York Times reports.

Antitrust action against Google enjoys broad bipartisan support, but there is little consensus on how to move forward. Democrats are accused of dragging out the process so that action might come during a potential Biden administration.

Alphabet is an obvious target for an antitrust case given the broad suite of companies and products that consumers use either actively or passively multiple times a day.

The company harvests data from consumer interactions to improve its products, making it difficult for others to compete.

The Justice Department inquiry is split into two working groups, one focused on the dominance of Google in search, and the other on online advertising and the technology that sits behind it.

It is unclear if any case would cover the company’s dominance in both sectors or focus on just one. There is also disagreement among state attorneys as to whether to bring a focused case quickly or a broader case later.

To date, Europe has led the way in reining in the tech giants in terms of antitrust issues, while the US has lagged behind.

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