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Orrin Hatch asks FTC to investigate Google again as Trump touts possible antitrust probe

August 31, 2018 GMT

Sen. Orrin Hatch asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google, calling into question the company’s business practices amid President Trump’s recently launched attack on Silicon Valley.

The Utah senator and chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force made the request Thursday in a letter pressuring the FTC to act in the face of Mr. Trump accusing Google and competing tech companies this week of potentially anticompetitive conduct.

“I respectfully request that the FTC consider the competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising,” Mr. Hatch wrote in the letter to Joseph Simmons, an antitrust lawyer serving as the agency’s chairman since May.

A representative for the FTC confirmed receiving the senator’s letter Friday but declined to comment further. Spokespeople for Google did not immediately return a message seeking the company’s reaction to Mr. Hatch’s request.

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Google has been the subject of FTC probes in the past, including most recently an investigation that ended in 2013 with the agency finding that the company had violated neither antitrust nor anti-competition statues over the way it displays search results.

Nonetheless, Mr. Hatch said that “disquieting” reports published in the interim involving Google’s alleged business practices warrant examination.

“Although these reports concern different aspects of Google’s business, many relate to the company’s dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data,” wrote Mr. Hatch, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican.

Mr. Hatch’s letter was sent the same day Mr. Trump repeatedly raised the possibility of pursuing antitrust investigations into Silicon Valley’s largest companies, Google included.

“As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg published earlier Thursday. “But I just, I won’t comment on that.”

Later Thursday during a rally in Evansville, Indiana, Mr. Trump said: “You look at Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants, and I made it clear that we as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results.”

Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s economic adviser, said this week the White House was “taking a look” at Google.