Uncle Sam Says Google Is An Illegal Monopoly.

File photo. The US Department of Justice is claiming that Google is a monopoly that abuses its position in the market to unfairly exclude competitors.
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The United States government is suing one of the world’s most powerful companies: search engine giant Google. If you want to know more about the case…then you can always Google it.

A court battle kicks off on Tuesday in which the U.S. Justice Department will argue that Google abused its power as a monopoly to dominate the search engine business.

This is the government’s first major monopoly case since United States versus Microsoft Corp. in 2001 and the first in the age of the modern internet.

The case revolves around the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which forbids companies from deliberately preventing competition in a business that affects interstate commerce.

The Justice Department’s case hinges on claims that Google illegally orchestrated its business dealings, so that it’s the first search engine people see when they turn on their phones and web browsers. The government says Google’s goal was to eliminate competition.

“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” said former Attorney General William Barr when the case was first filed in October 2020.

The Department of Justice says that Google’s anticompetitive conduct has included the following:

  • Acquiring Competitors: Engaging in a pattern of acquisitions to obtain control over key digital advertising tools used by website publishers to sell advertising space;
  • Forcing Adoption of Google’s Tools: Locking in website publishers to its newly-acquired tools by restricting its unique, must-have advertiser demand to its ad exchange, and in turn, conditioning effective real-time access to its ad exchange on the use of its publisher ad server;
  • Distorting Auction Competition: Limiting real-time bidding on publisher inventory to its ad exchange, and impeding rival ad exchanges’ ability to compete on the same terms as Google’s ad exchange; and
  • Auction Manipulation: Manipulating auction mechanics across several of its products to insulate Google from competition, deprive rivals of scale, and halt the rise of rival technologies.

Now nearly three years later, with millions of pages of documents produced and depositions from more than 150 people, the case is going to trial.

The government’s case challenges how tech companies are able to amass power and control the products people now use daily in their lives. The outcome of the case could change how tech giants are able to do business and, in effect, how the internet is run.

Google, which is worth $1.7 trillion, controls around 90% of the U.S. search engine market. It’s put together a massive legal team and brought on outside law firms to help fight its case.

The company says its search product is superior to competitors and that is why it dominates the industry. Google says if people don’t want to use its search engine, they can just switch to another.

“People don’t use Google because they have to — they use it because they want to,” Kent Walker, one of Google’s top lawyers and its president of global affairs, wrote in an emailed statement. “It’s easy to switch your default search engine — we’re long past the era of dial-up internet and CD-ROMs.”

The case against Google focuses on the company paying billions of dollars each year for exclusive agreements with phone makers, like Apple and Samsung, and web browsers, like Mozilla, which runs Firefox.

Those agreements let Google be the default search engine on most devices. The Justice Department say that by securing this position, Google has been able to box out smaller rivals.

DuckDuckGo is one of those smaller rivals. It has centered its search business around privacy and ensuring users aren’t tracked — unlike Google, which has long tracked users for targeted advertising.

Kamyl Bazbaz, DuckDuckGo’s vice president of public affairs, says she’s glad this case is headed to trial.

“Google has used its monopoly power to block meaningful competition in the search market by putting a stranglehold on major distribution points for more than a decade,” Bazbaz wrote in an email. “So even though DuckDuckGo provides something extremely valuable that people want and Google won’t provide — real privacy — Google makes it unduly difficult to use DuckDuckGo by default.”

Sources: NPR, US Department of Justice, Wikipedia.
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