The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed a antitrust lawsuit against Google, alleging that the search engine giants have illegally held a monopoly over search and search advertising. This will be one of the biggest antitrust suits in American judiciary history, with eleven state attorneys already signed onto the federal case.
The following excerpt, lifted from the court documents filed, explains the gist of the U.S. government’s side of things:
“Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone. The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet, and one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, with a market value of $1 trillion and annual revenue exceeding $160 billion. For many years, Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising—the cornerstones of its empire”
As reported by The Verge, a representative of the DoJ explained that the action seeks to “break Google’s grip” on search distribution, with around 80 percent of general online searches in the U.S. made via Google’s search engine. According to Ryan Shores, Senior Advisor for tech industries at the DoJ:
“Google’s conduct is illegal under traditional antitrust principles and must be stopped”
What does Google have to say?
Google, for their part, have responded by describing the antitrust claim as “deeply flawed”. In response to claims that they have locked up deals with partners across the tech industry as part of a monopoly, the company has also argued that users are free to use—or opt out of—Google services across various platforms.
For example, the company shared a slew of Tweets via the Google Public Policy Twitter account that explained how users can switch search engines on the popular Chrome browser, while pointing to Microsoft’s decision to ship Windows machines with the Edge browser built-in for comparison. The company also pointed to the Android ecosystems, and the “incredible competition” generated in the mobile phone market as a result.
This isn’t the first time that Google is facing legal action over alleged market monopolies. Back in 2013. the company had to tweak policies for their AdSense website monetisation programme to settle out of court with the Federal Trade Commission, while regulators in the European Union have imposed fines on the company in the past for other monopoly-related issues.
Additionally, this is something that has been brewing for awhile now. Last year, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren authored an article titled: Here’s how we can break up Big Tech. Warren referred to action taken against Microsoft during the 90s—the dominant player in the tech space at the time—which ultimately provided the springboard (and space) for companies such as Google to flourish. The article continues on to explain that Facebook, Google, and Amazon (“Big Tech” members) have “too much power” now, with small businesses suffering as a result.
Does this mean that U.S. lawmakers will continue to clamp down on the dominant players in the tech space? The lawsuit against Google is reportedly the first antitrust action brought by the U.S. government against a tech giant since Microsoft, and the case could have a ripple effect on companies like Facebook, Amazon, and even Apple. However, a case of this size will undoubtedly take years to complete—unless Google hurriedly settles the issue out of court (and even then, this probably wouldn’t happen anytime soon).
For now, Google maintains that users continue to have the element of choice when it comes to their products: