38 states hit Google with antitrust lawsuit over search practices

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It’s no secret that Google controls a majority of the internet search industry. Although there are plenty of other options available, the majority of people prefer to use Google. In fact, CNET reports that 90 percent of searches in the U.S. are run through Google.

That’s partially because its search algorithms are extremely good at returning helpful results. It’s also because Google’s complementary products and Chrome extensions are too good to pass up.

Even so, regulators worry that Google’s power in the search industry has become problematic. On Thursday, attorneys general from 38 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company. It is the third antitrust suit levied against Google in the past few months.

Hurting Competition

It was only a matter of time until regulators started taking a closer look at Google’s search business. Lawmakers have discussed concerns about the company for years and Thursday’s lawsuit comes as no surprise.

The complaint is twofold, targeting both Google’s search algorithms and its more recent push into voice search with Google Assistant. It claims that Google favors its own services over those of its competitors when displaying search results on the web. Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges that the company is trying to box out rival services by making its own search features the default option on devices like smart speakers and connected cars.

The complaint reads, “As the gateway to the internet, Google has systematically degraded the ability of other companies to access consumers.”

Again, while that isn’t inherently true—since people are still free to choose any service they prefer—it is a valid complaint. Other search engine providers stand little chance of competing toe-to-toe with Google.

Google published a blog post detailing its reaction to the lawsuit. It says, “We [Google] know that scrutiny of big companies is important and we’re prepared to answer questions and work through the issues. But this lawsuit seeks to redesign Search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information.”

Rocky Past

This certainly isn’t the first time Google has come under fire for antitrust concerns and it won’t be the last. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended a lengthy investigation into allegations of biased search results in 2013. At the time, it found that Google wasn’t in violation of any laws.

The Big Tech firm now faces a host of new legal complaints. On Wednesday, a separate coalition of states levied a suit against Google for its online advertising practices. It accuses the company of using “false, deceptive, or misleading” ads to hurt its competitors.

In October, the Justice Department accused Google of having monopolies in both the search and advertising spaces. That complaint alleged that the company’s deals with Apple and Samsung to make Google the default search engine on their devices was anti-competitive.

That being said, of the many lawsuits that Google faces, Thursday’s could be the most serious. Since it targets Google’s search features—the core of its business—the ultimate ruling could have serious implications for the company’s future.

This is a situation that warrants a close eye in the coming months as the lawsuit makes its way through the legal system.

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