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The Telegraph: Google could be this century’s Standard Oil – will it be broken up?

Read on The Telegraph

Fines and investigations have become a part of everyday life for Google. Hot on the heels of a $170m (£139m) settlement, agreed with US regulators on Wednesday over claims it had been breaching children’s privacy law with its YouTube site, the search giant looks set to face yet another investigation.

This time, though, it can expect more than a rap on the knuckles. The probe, expected to be launched next week by more than half of the US’s state attorneys general, would mark a significant coordinated action to rein in the internet giant – and could very well be Google’s toughest hurdle yet.

It is a move that has been a long time coming. For years, American antitrust bodies have been seen to be dragging their heels, their last major attempt to curb Google’s market power in 2013 resulting in them opting against imposing hefty penalties.

Recently, though, the mood has changed. Within the last month, a new bill has been introduced in the US which, if signed into law, would hand regulators more powers to stop monopolies forming, including fines of up to 15pc of their US revenues.

Presidential candidates, meanwhile, have been vocal in their ambitions to break up Big Tech, most notably Democrat front-runner Elizabeth Warren who warned the companies have “too much power – too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy”. Ms Warren has said that under her presidency, Google would not be allowed to promote its own services, for example its job adverts function, within search results.

And in July, the US Department of Justice launched its own antitrust investigation into big tech companies, saying their dominance had “stifled innovation”.

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