The US Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google over monopolistic behaviour on Tuesday.
The DOJ was joined by 11 states, making it the largest antitrust lawsuit to date. The battle may last for years as Republicans take on Big Tech following strong allegations of censorship and monopolistic behaviour from the California-based search engine company.
The lawsuit, filed in Washington DC, accuses Google of using its size and influence to illegally monopolise the market for search-generated advertising through contracts. Google has, for example, an agreement with Apple to put its search engine on iPhones, essentially locking out competitors from the playing field.
"Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone," the lawsuit reads.
"The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet, and one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, with a market value of $1 trillion and annual revenue exceeding $160 billion," it continues. "For many years, Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising — the cornerstones of its empire." Google has since responded to the lawsuit by dismissing the allegations laid against it by the feds, stating: “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.”
“This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs. “To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”
In terms of specifics, Google explained that it negotiates agreements with companies like Apple and other phone companies and carriers to distribute its software.
“Other search engines, including Microsoft’s Bing, compete with us for these agreements. And our agreements have passed repeated antitrust reviews,” Google said.
The lawsuit against Google is the largest effort the Justice Department has taken against Big Tech since 1994, when it sued Microsoft for its dominance of the browser market through Internet Explorer. That case eventually reached a settlement and Microsoft was not allowed to lock out competing browsers from Windows.
"If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation," said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen on Tuesday according to NBC News. "If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google."
"Google collectively pays mobile phone manufacturers, carriers, and web browsers billions of dollars each year from its monopoly search advertising revenues to be the preset default search engine," said Ryan Shores, senior technology advisor to the Justice Department. "This is, by far, the most effective way for a search engine to gain users, as most people simply use this default."
Shores stated that through these agreements, phone users are not given a choice and cannot erase Google-embedded software.
The United States government isn’t the only government posing challenges to Google, which is also facing legal trouble in Europe.
In 2019, the European Union fined Google $1.7 billion for stopping websites from using advertisers searches provided by rival companies.