The United States Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.
The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “But as the antitrust complaint filed today explains, it has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.
Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to payphone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states will join the federal government in the lawsuit.
The Trump administration has long had Google in its sights. A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.
Google controls about 90 per cent of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.
The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.
With only two weeks to election day, the Trump Justice Department is taking bold legal action against Google on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement. Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.
The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google’s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago it was investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”
Photo credit: Dado Ruvic/Reuters
News source: The Associated Press