By Joseph Slevin
Technology and Innovation Writer
To many in the public, Google is a company they rely on nearly every day, from their business to personal life. Google has the biggest search engine including YouTube, the most used email service in the world, and finally, more recently a company’s step into the smartphone market. It can be easily said that Google has hands everywhere in the world of tech.
On Tuesday, October 20th the Justice Department filed a complaint against Google claiming the company violated antitrust laws. Antitrust laws first came into play in 1890 with the passing of the Sherman Act and continued until 1914 when Congress passed two more bills creating the Federal Trade Commission. These laws and the overall main goal of antitrust is to protect competition in the US economy, keep prices fair and make sure one company does not control one industry. In 1890 the company in question was Standard Oil, in 2020 it looks like it could be Google. As stated, the Justice Department along with 11 different state attorneys from a variety of states filed a civil lawsuit in the US District Court of Columbia against Google for violating antitrust laws and maintaining an unlawful monopoly in the search and search advertising markets. Google is mainly known as a search engine and many companies pay Google for ads on both YouTube and the search engine itself. Google accounts for 90% of all interest search results and has amassed a market value of over 1 trillion dollars because of it.
For context, the Department of Justice has gone after big tech before for violating antitrust laws. In 1974 against AT&T and again in 1998 against Microsoft. Both times the DOJ enforced the Sherman Act on these companies to “restore the role of competition and open the door to the next wave of innovation” says Deputy Attorney General Jefferey A. Rosen. The DOJ claims that Google is using predatory practices to try and get their search engine on users’ devices. The company has entered into exclusionary agreements prohibiting competing search engines on mobile devices. These arrangements force the preinstallation of Google’s applications without the consent of the consumer. Google made an agreement with Apple, arguably the most popular smartphone manufacturer in the country, to set Google as the default search engine on Apple’s web browser Safari. Google has used a cycle of monopolization to reinforce its dominance in the search engine market.
Officials at Google claim this lawsuit will only hurt consumers if the company is forced to break up. The company claims the lawsuit has many flaws and would only result in the creation of more and worse search engines that would ultimately harm consumers.
“The DOJ suit against Google is likely just a first step,” says Chris Pedigo a senior vice president of government affairs at Digital Content Next. Many in the tech field know that the DOJ has its eyes on the many different facets of Google. For months state lawyers from Texas, who were leading the multistate coalition that signed the original complaint, sent Google’s parent company, Alphabet, 130 detailed questions about their complex ad business. The questions were about why Google would not allow third-party advertisers to collect data on the target audience. The claim links with Google’s ability to collect data through their search engine better than anyone else. If Google controls 90% of all internet browsing and has access to all those users plus their information, there will not be anyone to compete with. This coalition is being headed by Republican lawyers in mostly Republican states with a Republican Attorney General in office. While there is merit to the first complaint many see another one coming soon.
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