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SU prof: Government has tough hill to climb in case against Google

(AP)

Recently 50 states spearheaded an antitrust investigation into whether Google is committing potential monopolistic behavior, which came on the heels another mass investigation into Facebook’s market dominance. Will the government ever break up big tech?

Seattle University’s Jack Kirkwood is a law professor and antitrust expert, and joined the Candy, Mike and Todd Show to discuss the ramifications of the cases.

“The biggest concern with Google is that it biases its search results in favor of its own product, so that if someone is looking for a restaurant review, you’ll get a Google service looking at restaurants rather than Yelp,” Kirkwood said. “The big allegation with Facebook, unlike Google, is that Facebook bought off a couple of potential competitors, like WhatsApp and Instagram.”

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What’s difficult about both investigations is proving that each company’s activity both weakened rivals and hurt consumers at the same time.

“You can’t violate the antitrust laws merely by hurting a competitor because you could hurt a competitor by coming out with a better product,” Kirkwood said. “What’s critical for an antitrust violation is to show that the company engaged in conduct that both hurt or weakened a rival and harmed consumers.”

Kirkwood says with Facebook, the government would have to specifically prove that when Facebook bought Instagram, that Instagram was poised to become a direct competitor with them, which is not entirely clear. And with Google, the government among other things would have to prove that Google’s search algorithm is blatantly biased, not altogether clear in its current form.

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Part of the issue as well is that one of the reasons these companies are gaining monopolistic power is because they’re very, very popular.

“The big background point is all these tech giants have grown because they produce something that’s popular with consumers,” Kirkwood said. “Any lawsuit challenging them is going have to face up to that difficulty. These are popular services.”

Listen to The Candy, Mike, and Todd Show weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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