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Orrin Hatch calls for FTC investigation into Google’s control of key online markets

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WASHINGTON, D.C., August 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Sen. Orrin Hatch wants the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to reassess whether Google’s dominance of the search and digital advertising fields poses a threat to open competition on the internet.

The Utah Republican, who chairs the Senate GOP’s High-Tech Task Force, sent a letter Thursday to FTC chairman Joseph Simons making his case, which can be read in full here.

Citing various reports about Google allegedly restricting search results from competitors, cutting businesses it disagrees with from its platforms, and letting third-party app developers access users’ emails, Hatch urged the FTC to “reconsider the competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising.”

While crediting Google for a “long track record of providing valuable services and making important, innovative contributions,” Hatch maintained that recent years’ developments present a darker side. The commission’s previous investigation ended with the assumption that Apple would become a major competitor to Google in the realm of mobile advertising networks, Hatch recalled. Instead, Google has only become more dominant, “accumulat[ing] data at essentially every step.”

“[Y]ou and an entire new slate of FTC commissioners have been recently confirmed. During the confirmation hearing, you and several other commissioners expressed support for creating a program to look back at previous decisions on mergers and whether those choices had been effective,” Hatch reminded Simons. “In light of all of these changes, I respectfully request that the FTC consider the competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising.”

"We take all correspondence from members of Congress very seriously," FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan told The Hill regarding Hatch’s letter. "However, we have no comment beyond that." Google similarly declined to comment.

Hatch’s concerns align with those of President Donald Trump, who told Bloomberg News Thursday that “many people think it is a very antitrust situation” with Google, as well as Facebook and Amazon. He declined to comment on whether he favors breaking up the companies.

The letter comes days after the president pledged to “address” Google’s discrimination against conservative voices via unspecified administrative action. He was reacting to a PJ Media analysis finding that Google searches for news on the term “trump” overwhelmingly prioritize results from left-wing websites, with only five items from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal breaking the top 100.

Some conservatives have expressed reservations about a government response to social media censorship, citing private entities’ right to control their own platforms. Others argue the problem is so pervasive it threatens the higher good of free speech, and that many of these online giants’ practices cross the line into violations of existing liability, election, and antitrust rules.

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