By: Margo Rawlings
Recently, the Google antitrust case returned to the media’s attention, due to its trial beginning on Sept. 12.
In Oct. of 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 11 states’ attorney generals sued Google for violating Section Two of the Sherman Act, maintaining an illegal monopoly. The DOJ claimed that by creating deals with other companies that required Google’s search engine to appear as the default, Google created a monopoly since it ended almost all competition with other search engines. Then, in January of 2023, the DOJ, along with eight states, filed a second antitrust complaint against Google, claiming that its advertising business needed to split due to the company using its influential position to ensure full control of the supply and demand within the advertising industry. The DOJ cited that Google used anti-competitive behavior to monopolize the advertising market.
As the trial began, Judge Amit Mehta, ruled to keep much of the evidence and testimonies from the public due to Google’s concern for their employees’ privacy. However, after many critiques, Judge Mehta decided to allow documents to be published online following their presentation in court, while still allowing Google and other companies to object to the publication of documents prior to their presentation in court.
Since 2003, when Apple launched its Safari browser, Apple set Google as the default search engine. In the following years, Apple and Google formed a deal where Google paid Apple almost 10 billion dollars a year to remain the default search engine for Safari. Although individuals such as Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services, explained users could implement a simple switch from Google to other search engines like Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Bing, the DOJ argued that switching search engines is another unnecessary step for users. In fact, during an internal search, Google found that those who switched their browser to Google logged 55 percent more searches a week and visited other search engines significantly less.
In the second case, officials claim Google’s acquisitions have forced other advertisers to use its products, which has proved harmful to other advertising agencies. Attorney General Merrick Garland described that “For 15 years, Google has pursued a course of anti-competitive conduct that has allowed it to halt the rise of rival technologies, manipulate auction mechanics, to insulate itself from competition, and force advertisers and publishers to use its tools.” Additionally, prosecutors requested that a federal judge ensure that Google’s advertising agency splits from the rest of the company. This marks the first time since 1980 that the DOJ has forced a major company split.
(Sources: AP News, Harvard Gazette, NPR, The New York Times)