The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and 11 states sued Google for alleged antitrust violations related to its popular search engine. Federal and state officials have accused the corporation of using its influence to stifle competition and innovation. The DOJ announced its intention to investigate multiple Big Tech firms for anticompetitive activity in July 2019.
The government’s lawsuit follows the publication of a House of Representatives subcommittee report that indicated Google engages in monopolistic practices.
The People v. Google
The DOJ argues Google utilizes its expansive financial resources to maintain its position as America’s foremost search engine.
Prosecutors claim the corporation spends billions of dollars annually to get smartphone manufacturers and web browser providers like Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla to use its service as a default search engine. Officials state that capital expenditure helped Google become the facilitator of 80 percent of all U.S. online search inquiries. In addition to ensuring its market position, the federal government believes its expenditures undercut its rivals.
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas are also participating in the DOJ’s suit.
Jeffrey Rosen, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, told reporters that Google’s actions negatively impacted America’s ability to innovate. He also said his agency had not discounted the possibility of pursuing a breakup of the Silicon Valley giant.
Google’s Response to the DOJ Lawsuit
In a blog post, Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, called the government’s lawsuit “deeply flawed.”
The executive argued his company’s search engine has a dominant market position because of consumer preference. He compared Google’s promotional spending to a cereal maker paying supermarkets to display its products prominently. Walker also pointed out his employer’s agreements with device makers and service providers past antitrust scrutiny in the past.
The CLO pushed back against the assertion that his firm is a monopoly by pointing out it has multiple competitors. He mentioned that Microsoft and Yahoo pay Apple to highlight their search engines on its handsets. The ex-DOJ attorney wrote that Microsoft sets its Bing product as the default search tool for its operating system’s default browser.
Walker concluded by reiterating his opinion of the government’s lawsuit and stating Google will be vindicated in court.
An Inevitable Conflict
The DOJ taking legal action against Google for its alleged antitrust practices has a sense of inevitability to it. In the last several years, U.S. politicians have become increasingly skeptical of Big Tech’s influence on American society. Specifically, officials have scrutinized the group of corporations for operating as monopolies.
In July, the House Judiciary Subcommittee directly questioned Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google’s chief executives about their alleged anti-competitive practices. Sundar Pichai, head of Google, denied accusations that his firm stifles rivals. But lawmakers found his statements wanting, and the group’s September report claimed the corporation used its influence to undercut competitors.
The subcommittee’s findings, and the European Union fining the search engine $1.7 billion for engaging in antitrust activity last year, made a DOJ-Google legal battle inevitable. The only question now is if the U.S. government will pursue legal action against the rest of Big Tech.