Fox goes after Google, Daines seeks investigation into Twitter, Facebook

Attorney General Tim Fox on Tuesday joined Montana to a lawsuit with 10 other states and the Department of Justice accusing Google of using its dominance over online search engines to quash innovation and competition.

In a separate move, Sen. Steve Daines on Tuesday also urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate a handful of social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, accused of limiting or removing political content harmful to Republicans and favorable to Democrats.

The suit filed by the 11 Attorneys General – all Republicans – and the Justice Department suggest that Google has used exclusionary agreements to lock up distribution channels that consumers use to access search engines and, as a result, the Internet as a whole.

“By filing this lawsuit, we’re seeking to stop Google’s anti-competitive conduct and to restore competition for American consumers, advertisers, and all companies which rely on the internet economy,” Fox said.

The suit contends that Google’s actions require that it be set as the default search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide.

The complaint alleges that Google also has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and advertising functions through exclusivity agreements that forbid the pre-installation of competing services.

Such anti-competitive practices harm competition and limit the development of innovative new companies and their ability to compete, the suit argues.

“As one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide,” Fox said. “For years, Google has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all search queries in the country and has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising.”

In addition to Montana, the states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas also joined the suit.

In a separate move, and with the election just weeks away, Sen. Steve Daines on Tuesday urged Sens. Lindsey Graham and Diane Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate social media companies accused of removing content of certain political candidates.

In recent weeks, Daines said, some political candidates and news sources have seen content and stories removed from social media websites based on “loose and shifting guidelines.”

“Recent events have brought forward a troubling pattern where social media companies have failed to follow industry standards, failed to follow their own rules, or have changed their rules to justify previous actions,” Daines wrote in a letter to the committee. “This pattern has overwhelmingly led to the removal of content or users favoring one candidate over another.”

Daines said he has heard from many Montanans “demanding more transparency and further scrutiny” into the suspension of official campaign accounts for President Trump, or limiting the distribution of recent articles pertaining to allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden.

“This raises serious questions of illegal coordination or election interference,” Daines said. “With so much information pertinent to the upcoming election flowing through these companies, it is of paramount importance that online companies are held to the same laws and accountability as the rest of the nation.”