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Antitrust Charges filed against a Tech Giant

The Justice Department of the US had filed suit against Google last Tuesday for illegal monopolization of the search and ad markets, then kicking off the most significant antitrust cases in US history. The case focuses on search-focused advertising instead of the company’s broader targeted ad business.

“Countless advertisers must pay a toll to Google’s search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies,” the complaint states, “American consumers are forced to accept Google’s policies, privacy practices, and use of personal data; and new companies with innovative business models cannot emerge from Google’s long shadow.”

Recently, Justice Department officials have emphasized the scale and power of Google’s control on the search market. Ryan Shores, the Justice Department’s senior advisor for tech industries, says,

“Google’s conduct is illegal under traditional antitrust principles and must be stopped…. Google owns or controls search distribution channels accounting for about 80 percent of general search queries in the United States. We’re asking the court to break Google’s grip on search distribution so that competition and innovation can take hold.”

Google differs, contending that its high share of the search market is the outcome of consumer choice.

“Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed,” the company said in a statement. “People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

The case is among the most ambitious antitrust actions undertaken against a tech company, further drawing together parallel investigations from the DOJ and a range of state attorney generals. The DOJ has briefed the state AGs o the case by the end of September. Eleven different state attorney generals are expected to sign onto the case; however, others are likely to file in separate antitrust charges.

In the past, Google has faced antitrust action; however, not on this scale. The significant investigation concluded in 2013; this was when the company changed the AdSense policies to resolve a Federal Trade Commission investigation without a formal legal action. Google has also faced a series of fines from the European Union; it includes €1.5B over the AdSense policy, €4.3B over the software bundling in Android, and €2.4 B for the manipulation of shopping results in Google search.

Google has drawn significant criticism from the lawmakers at Congress’ tech antitrust hearing in July, further suggesting that the company uses the privileged position as the search engine to crush the competitors in other areas.

“It is Google’s business model that is the problem,” Cicilline stated. “Our documents show that Google evolved from a turnstile to the rest of the web to a walled garden that increasingly keeps users within its sites.”

Recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had defended its actions as part of a broader assurance to serve the users.

“When I run the company, I’m really focused on giving users what they want,” Pichai said. “We conduct ourselves to the highest standard.”

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