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A Google director faced bipartisan grilling in the Senate on Tuesday over the company’s dominance in digital advertising, in an example of arguments that the tech giant is likely to face soon from monopoly regulators.
Google’s massive search and advertising business is at the heart of the investigation by the Justice Department and almost all state attorneys. The department is reportedly ready to file a lawsuit against the company in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, senators in a subcommittee on the judiciary Donald Harrison, Google’s president of global partnerships and business development, pressed for the scope and scope of the company’s digital advertising business.
“Do you know any other company that exercises this kind of concentration and dominance across every layer of the ad stack?” asked Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., referring to the collection of tools that connect advertisers to publishers. Google is involved in almost every step of the chain between advertisers seeking to place their ads and publishers selling space on their sites. Hawley pointed to conclusions from the UK antitrust regulator, which show that Google has a dominant position in various parts of the advertising technology market, ranging from 40% to more than 90%.
Harrison, who testified remotely by video, responded that publishers and advertisers have other choices than Google. He pointed out that the prices of digital advertising have fallen over the years as proof that the competition is robust.
Senators also pushed Harrison into how Google uses data from other services, such as search and Gmail, for the benefit of its advertising business. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Asked why the digital advertising business should not be regulated “to prevent conflicts of interest, inappropriate self-trading and insider trading”, as financial trading markets are regulated.
“I think there is a huge choice. I think there are a lot of competitors. I think prices have dropped,” Harrison replied. “I do not see market failures that require regulation.”
While much of the hearing was down to the technical details of the digital advertising market, Senate Republicans also took the opportunity to question Harrison over whether Google is biased against conservatives – a long-standing complaint to the right that there is little evidence. for.
Republicans, including Hawley, Ted Cruz of Texas, and subcommittee chairman Mike Lee of Utah tried to frame their complaints about anti-conservative bias as evidence of Google’s unnecessary influence.
Lee said in his introductory remark that antitrust was not the right tool to address bias concerns and that such concerns were not the focus of the hearing.
However, his first question to Harrison was about allegations that Google had banned a conservative site from its ad network.
“Is this behavior not a sign of market power?” he asked.
Harrison responded that comments on the website, the Federalist, had violated Google’s policy against racism. “We have been clear in our policies that our ads cannot appear next to those kinds of comments,” he said.
The looming antitrust case against Google comes under a broader investigation into whether major technology companies are stifling competition and harming consumers. CEOs of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon testified together before a House committee in July, pushing back against accusations that too much power has been concentrated in too few companies.
Editor’s note: Google is among NPR’s financial backers.