WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is exploring whether to open a case against Google for potential antitrust violations, putting renewed scrutiny on the company amid a growing chorus of criticism about the power of Big Tech, according to two people with knowledge of the deliberations.
An investigation into how Google arranges search results could revive a case closed in 2013 by another government agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The five F.T.C. commissioners voted unanimously at the time to close the investigation without bringing charges against the company. Google agreed to make some changes to search practices tied to advertising.
But this year, with a new antitrust task force, the trade commission renewed its interest in Google. In recent weeks, the commission referred the case to the Justice Department, which also oversees antitrust regulations, according to two people familiar with the actions.
The F.T.C. antitrust task force, which the agency announced in February, had been looking into Google’s advertising practices, according to one of the people.
If the Justice Department opens a formal investigation, it will be the first major case against a big tech company in the Trump administration. Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon have come under intense bipartisan criticism, and calls to break up the firms have become a focal point of the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But so far, no antitrust cases have been brought.
A spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Google declined to comment.
This is a developing story and will be updated.