The ongoing DOJ antitrust investigation into Google may be more serious than initially thought, according to a statement made by laid-off journalists from the Save Journalism Project and former Justice Department Antitrust Division attorney Seth Bloom.
The 14-year former General Counsel to the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee points to what he says is "Google's anticompetitive conduct and abuse of its search engine monopoly" that, in combination with its ad business, pose an existential threat to journalism.
Save Journalism Project has some figures to back up those claims as well. In 2019 alone, the group says, more than 7,200 media professionals have been laid off.
That follows a decline in the size of newsrooms by 45-percent over the last 10 years and the decimation of local newspapers. According to figures posted by the group. As many as 60-percent of counties in the U.S. no longer have a local newspaper.
Facebook can't be left out of the fray either since ad revenues have skyrocketed for both companies over that period. Over the last seven years, the climb has been more dramatic. Specifically, Google and Facebook saw ad revenue shoot by $80 billion and $50 billion, respectively. That's despite ad revenues dropping by $2 billion per year over that time frame.
News publishers managed just $14.3 billion in 2018, the group says. If the trend continues, the next seven years will see the end of that ad revenue and "the free press."
The DOJ investigation into Google
The figures pooled by the Save Journalism Project are undoubtedly under review by the Justice Department and the FTC. The organizations respectively took over the investigation of Google and Facebook earlier this year, splitting the enormous task.
The bulk of the DOJ investigation into Google has been kept well under wraps but comes in the wake of countless global privacy and serious antitrust inquiries into the company. In particular, the company has faced challenges centered on Android. The fines the company has paid and concessions result from policies requiring Google services to be pre-installed and Google to be set as the default search.
Google has since started moving away from those violations but Mr. Bloom notes that a major monopolization case is the biggest risk Google faces. Not only has the steps the company has taken not been enough. The search giant has grown substantially and has broken into new territories such as IoT and AI, among other things.
Its foray into those areas isn't slight either, with the company arguably falling just behind Amazon in the smart home market. Additionally, its AI comes installed on nearly every new smartphone that isn't built by Apple. Since nearly all of those services utilize its search and ad businesses to some extent, those don't do the company any favors.
A resolution could be a long way out
There is any number of avenues Google will be investigated from before the Justice Department determines how to proceed. Another such avenue is Google's recent push to limit the sharing of user data in Chrome and other services. Giving users greater control over privacy is good for consumers but also limits competition in that space.
That's without considering the search giant's sister and daughter companies, such as YouTube. It doesn't take into account the ongoing push for regulatory action that could force the company to keep even more user data under tighter restrictions.
Simultaneously, several leading politicians are considering the break-up of the company. That's a solution to the issue that could feasibly be pursued by the DOJ and FTC. For a company Google's size, this is a massive undertaking for the Justice Department. Regardless of how serious it is, it's going to take a long time to complete.