Google accused by the DOJ of abusing market power in landmark antitrust case

nanoguy

Posts: 611   +8
Staff member
A hot potato: A long awaited lawsuit against Google is now official, with US lawmakers looking to strike at the heart of a tech company they believe has grown too big and powerful. This is expected to be a long battle that could see the search giant broken up, as "nothing is off the table."

It's no secret that Google has been in the crosshairs of US regulators. Back in July, when the House antitrust subcommittee grilled the Big Tech CEOs, Google's Sundar Pichai was not the most questioned of the bunch -- but at 61 questions, he came pretty close to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who had to answer 62 inquiries.

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging the search giant has been engaging in anticompetitive practices to protect monopolies it has built in the general search and search advertising industries. The primary concern outlined in the filing is that it has a history of leveraging its dominant position in one market to gain an unfair advantage in another.

The case has been more than one year in the making as regulators were initially looking to team up with 50 state attorneys general, as they too wanted to address the same concerns. Some state attorneys general are now expected to file separate lawsuits against Google, while 11 have joined the DOJ's case and several more are expected join in the coming months.

Google is a behemoth with an 80 percent market share in search across all platforms, and more than that when we consider the mobile search market. The DOJ lawsuit takes issue with the way Google acts as a gatekeeper with its Chrome browser and Android operating system, using them to keep competitors out. Lawmakers are also worried about the way Google Search is preloaded on Android devices from almost all manufacturers via exclusionary contract agreements.

The lawsuit was welcomed by small search providers. For instance, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg who said via Twitter: "we’re pleased the DOJ has taken this key step in holding Google accountable for the ways it has blocked competition, locked people into using its products, and achieved a market position so dominant they refuse to even talk about it out loud."

The DOJ believes that in doing all this, Google "substantially" harmed competition by making it difficult for alternative search engines to make a dent into the market. This is also a particularly hot subject for regulators in the EU, who are closely monitoring an auction system implemented by Google for small search providers who wish to be presented alongside its own offering on a choice screen during Android setup.

While the lawsuit seems to be focused mainly on Google's search business, the DOJ hints that more allegations could be added at a later time, possibly in a separate lawsuit.

The most recent report on the DOJ's broad antitrust investigation is a sign of things to come for companies that are as big as Google, as "nothing is off the table" when it comes to the specific remedies that might be applied to them in the future.

Naturally, Google is far from content with the development, and Senior VP of Global Affairs Kent Walker wrote a statement on The Keyword to express the company's position in the matter. He describes the DOJ's lawsuit as "deeply flawed," and maintains the company's long-held position that people flock to Google's search engine because it provides great value to them.

As for the potential impact of the lawsuit, Walker says the lawsuit wouldn't benefit consumers and instead "prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use."

Walker has provided what he believes is a rebuttal of DOJ's main complaint in the new lawsuit, and explains that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others operate the same "eye level shelf" space as Google where they control what services are displayed during initial device setup, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or anything in-between.

Microsoft is given as a prime example where Google Chrome and services like Google Search don't come preloaded on Windows 10 devices. Instead, the Redmond giant bakes in the Microsoft Edge browser with every Windows installation, while its Bing search engine is the primary search option.

As for the exclusionary agreements Google makes with Android device makers, Walker explains they're what enables the company to distribute its mobile operating system for free, leading to cheaper devices that reach more consumers. "But even with these agreements", he adds, "carriers and device makers often preload numerous competing apps and app stores."

Walker disagrees with the idea that consumers aren't able to easily change their search engine to something of their choosing, and notes that plenty of alternative services and apps that don't come preloaded on phones manage to grow a large user base, with notable examples being Twitter for news, Expedia for travel, and Instagram for product recommendations.

The way Google sees it is that while it may dominate in the general search market, people search for specific things on different platforms. For instance, online shoppers tend to search Amazon first to get an idea about their options. The search giant is confident the lawsuit won't hold in court, and these arguments are a good preview of how it will attack the DOJ's complaints.

In a statement, Attorney General William Barr noted that 25 years ago, the DOJ sued Microsoft and enabled competitors like Google to "grow from a small startup to an Internet behemoth. Unfortunately, once Google itself gained dominance, it resorted to the same anticompetitive playbook. If we let Google continue its anticompetitive ways, we will lose the next wave of innovators and Americans may never get to benefit from the “next Google."

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Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 333   +401
Over the years, I've argued against a large number government antitrust actions as unnecessary, misguided, counterproductive, and worse. Not this one. It is warranted and long overdue.
...and usually the ones that are examples of government overreach are by the EU. Of course California's ban of independent contractors was overreach (not antitrust-related) and now all of California is going to pay for it by passing Prop 22, which effectively protects ride-sharing companies from any government intervention regarding labor laws unless another proposition is passed.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 333   +401
What the hell took so long is about as valid as it can get.

I hate, no, despise gubment interference and overreach, but Google has taken things to new heights in anti-consumerism and anti-competition. My only hope now is that we all live long enough to see a resolution.
We probably have Obama to thank for that, he got pretty chummy with big tech. Trump may be an ***, but he's at least he's critical of big tech abuses. It pretty much explains why the tech giants lean toward fighting against disinformation on certain subjects but not others: they're absolutely incentivized to have Biden win.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,461   +6,132
We probably have Obama to thank for that, he got pretty chummy with big tech. Trump may be an ***, but he's at least he's critical of big tech abuses. It pretty much explains why the tech giants lean toward fighting against disinformation on certain subjects but not others: they're absolutely incentivized to have Biden win.
Obama didn't do enough but it certainly wasn't only Obama that let them slide.

Trump's concern with big tech has always been the lid it puts on his and other right wing extremism. It's certainly not for any broader damage big tech is causing.

In any case it'd be best to wait and see what comes of this. Hopefully something substantial, contrary to anti-trust action over the last 2 decades.
 
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brucek

Posts: 574   +683
TechSpot Elite
Most of my work is on a desktop, where it is very easy for me to control what search engine I use. And indeed I've configured easy access to higher privacy, zero Google alternatives, and during occasional bouts of motivation I actually use them from time to time.

But mostly what happens is I find out quickly that Google's incredibly invasive knowledge of everything I'm interested in and doing actually does get me what I'm looking for faster, and since I'm not any sort of public figure and I don't care if someone knows I spent last night researching video game talent builds, Google usually "wins out." Well wins out in terms of providing my results; less so in terms of making advertising revenues, since I have multiple layers of ad blocking in place.

Bottom line I think any competitor that emerges as providing as useful as a service, will probably have to be doing the same sorts of questionable things to do it.
 
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ColdSoup

Posts: 97   +191
What the hell took so long is about as valid as it can get.
Some people say the law applies based on when it was originally written e.g. only muskets are protected not modern arms. Most telecommunications laws apply to actual phone systems, not the internet directly although many have been accepted to apply to the internet as well. Actually bringing a successful anti-trust lawsuit against a business is hard to do without making lots of people angry, usually those with lots of money to get new people in office who agree with the company accused of anti-competitive practices.
 

EClyde

Posts: 2,348   +915
As long as Trump remains this is going forward. It won't be like the 90's either. Trump has not taken their money. Unsocial Media is a curse
 

EClyde

Posts: 2,348   +915
Some people say the law applies based on when it was originally written e.g. only muskets are protected not modern arms. Most telecommunications laws apply to actual phone systems, not the internet directly although many have been accepted to apply to the internet as well. Actually bringing a successful anti-trust lawsuit against a business is hard to do without making lots of people angry, usually those with lots of money to get new people in office who agree with the company accused of anti-competitive practices.
Trump did not take their money so your thesis is hollow
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 696   +499
TechSpot Elite
As long as Trump remains this is going forward. It won't be like the 90's either. Trump has not taken their money.
tRUMP has taken nearly every last cent held up in front of him. Only he and his Trumpanistas deny that but the proof is so easy to find its sad. Ill even get you started.


But my post was not political. My only concern with tRUMP is that the most corrupt, dishonest, Pro Russia, Pro China group of self-serving pricks is swept from American office for good. donald trump OR America. Bottom line.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 333   +401
Obama didn't do enough but it certainly wasn't only Obama that let them slide.

Trump's concern with big tech has always been the lid it puts on his and other right wing extremism. It's certainly not for any broader damage big tech is causing.

In any case it'd be best to wait and see what comes of this. Hopefully something substantial, contrary to anti-trust action over the last 2 decades.
Maybe for Twitter and Facebook, since their involvement with consumers has mostly been about content, but not the other companies. With Apple, the main issue has been importing every single device they make from China and, in specific criminal cases, preventing their phones from being unlocked with a warranty. With Amazon, it's been their use of what Trump claims to be discounted prices that costs taxpayer dollars, effectively a subsidy of deliveries.

Of course there has been several cases where it's not been any sort of extremism that was blocked/removed by social media giants, and in many (not all) cases these have been dialed back. This applies to both sides (left and right) but Trump of course has been critical with it affecting he agrees with.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,006   +839
the most corrupt, dishonest, Pro Russia, Pro China group of self-serving pricks is swept from American office for good.
That group left the White House four years ago:

- Obama/Biden refused weapons to Ukraine to halt Russian aggression. Trump provided them.
- Obama/Biden cancelled ABM missiles to Poland due to Russian objections. Trump restored the deal.
- Obama/Biden allowed Russia to violate at will the INF Nuclear treaty and Open Skies treaty. Trump cancelled both treaties.
- Trump pressured Germany to halt the Nordstream Russian pipeline project, and forced NATO to increase its funding. Obama/Biden did not.
- Trump closed Russian consulates in the US, and organized the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats in history, including the Cold War years.
- Obama/Biden blocked sale of F16s to Taiwan, due to Chinese objections.
- Obama/Biden refused to act against Chinese industrial espionage. Trump has sanctioned Huawei and many other Chinese firms, and under Trump, the FBI now has over 2,500 active cases open against Chinese actors.
- Biden's son Hunter took tens of millions from close Putin allies and Chinese Communist Party officials. Recently released emails suggest a large part of these payments went to his father. Neither Trump nor his children have received anything from Russian or Chinese state actors.

This is just the first few of several hundred actions the Trump administration has taken against Russia and especially China. Obama/Biden allowed these two nations total free reign.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,006   +839
Of course there has been several cases where it's not been any sort of extremism that was blocked/removed by social media giants...
The incident ongoing right now is Twitter and Facebook's censoring the NY Post's Hunter Biden corruption series, sparked by his recently released emails.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,461   +6,132
Maybe for Twitter and Facebook, since their involvement with consumers has mostly been about content, but not the other companies. With Apple, the main issue has been importing every single device they make from China and, in specific criminal cases, preventing their phones from being unlocked with a warranty. With Amazon, it's been their use of what Trump claims to be discounted prices that costs taxpayer dollars, effectively a subsidy of deliveries.

Of course there has been several cases where it's not been any sort of extremism that was blocked/removed by social media giants, and in many (not all) cases these have been dialed back. This applies to both sides (left and right) but Trump of course has been critical with it affecting he agrees with.
Google has participated as well. It has removed or banned content / accounts of creators like Alex Jones for example.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 696   +499
TechSpot Elite
That group left the White House four years ago:

- Obama/Biden refused weapons to Ukraine to halt Russian aggression. Trump provided them.
- Obama/Biden cancelled ABM missiles to Poland due to Russian objections. Trump restored the deal.
- Obama/Biden allowed Russia to violate at will the INF Nuclear treaty and Open Skies treaty. Trump cancelled both treaties.
- Trump pressured Germany to halt the Nordstream Russian pipeline project, and forced NATO to increase its funding. Obama/Biden did not.
- Trump closed Russian consulates in the US, and organized the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats in history, including the Cold War years.
- Obama/Biden blocked sale of F16s to Taiwan, due to Chinese objections.
- Obama/Biden refused to act against Chinese industrial espionage. Trump has sanctioned Huawei and many other Chinese firms, and under Trump, the FBI now has over 2,500 active cases open against Chinese actors.
- Biden's son Hunter took tens of millions from close Putin allies and Chinese Communist Party officials. Recently released emails suggest a large part of these payments went to his father. Neither Trump nor his children have received anything from Russian or Chinese state actors.

This is just the first few of several hundred actions the Trump administration has taken against Russia and especially China. Obama/Biden allowed these two nations total free reign.
My views are that the Obama administration did plenty of things that I criticized. Your kind provides plenty of tongue no matter what your boy does.

That is why it is possible tRUMP will win re-election. Americans ready, and willing to be led around by the nose are still a large group.

And by the way, stupid decisions are not corruption.
 
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Hexic

Posts: 800   +868
TechSpot Elite
My views are that the Obama administration did plenty of things that I criticized. Your kind provides plenty of tongue no matter what your boy does.

That is why it is possible tRUMP will win re-election. Americans ready, and willing to be led around by the nose are still a large group.

And by the way, stupid decisions are not corruption.
Does spelling Trump as ‘tRUMP’ really get your point across any more? Are you getting paid every time you state that? Is that slogan brought to you by Carl’s Jr.?
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 696   +499
TechSpot Elite
Does spelling Trump as ‘tRUMP’ really get your point across any more? Are you getting paid every time you state that? Is that slogan brought to you by Carl’s Jr.?
I think I started doing that about 4 months after he was elected when I realized the real butt was in the tRUMP. Just like I always put the CONS in CONServatives.
 
I think every country should take tough approach regarding these companies. I am glad that Pakistan banned TikTok, only lifted ban when it agreed to our conditions.
 

picka

Posts: 80   +90
Bottom line I think any competitor that emerges as providing as useful as a service, will probably have to be doing the same sorts of questionable things to do it.
This is key.

Without knowing things about you, competitor results will not be as good so people will continue to use Google.

The alternative is to force Google to provide data to other search providers, but then you are giving Google even more power and enshrining their right to your data.

I honestly don't see how things will change.