Justice Department Announces Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google

FILE - This Tuesday, July 19, 2016, file photo shows the Google logo at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social platforms have been waging a fight against online misinformation and hate speech for two years. With the U.S. midterm elections coming soon on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, there are signs that they're making some headway, although they're still a long way from winning the war. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it was filing an antitrust lawsuit against search engine giant Google. The suit claims that the company used its power to illegally preserve its status as a search engine monopoly. 

The suit alleges that Google has used its search engine supremacy to stifle competition and increase profits. This could be the first shot in an overall conflict against other Big Tech companies in the near future. 

Several GOP lawmakers lauded the announced lawsuit. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) released a statement declaring that “Google and its fellow “Big Tech monopolists exercise unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans, controlling everything from the news we read to the security of our most personal information.” He added,  “and Google in particular has gathered and maintained that power through illegal means.”

As you might imagine, Google isn’t very happy about the news. One of the company’s spokespeople told Fox News: “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. We will have a fuller statement this morning.”

The lawsuit alleges that, “For years, Google has entered into exclusionary agreements, including tying arrangements, and engaged in anticompetitive conduct to lock up distribution channels and block rivals.”

It continues:

“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. For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy, the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.”

The Justice Department asserted that it filed the lawsuit to prevent the search engine behemoth from “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices, and to remedy the effects of this conduct.”

“Largely as a result of Google’s exclusionary agreements and anticompetitive conduct, Google in recent years has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all general-search-engine queries in the United States, and almost 95 percent of queries on mobile devices,” the DOJ insisted.

The DOJ has been working on this legal action for more than a year. The leadership of Big Tech firms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple have been anticipating the move, so there can be no doubt that they are ready to fight this long-awaited battle. 

But support for the lawsuit seems to be bipartisan. House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) said that the action was “long overdue” and pointed to prior investigations by the committee. 

“The Subcommittee’s investigation uncovered extensive evidence showing that Google maintained and extended its monopoly to harm competition,” he explained in a released statement. “It is critical that the Justice Department’s lawsuit focuses on Google’s monopolization of search and search advertising, while also targeting the anti-competitive business practices Google is using to leverage this monopoly into other areas, such as maps, browsers, video, and voice assistants.”

The DOJ alleges that Google used billions of dollars to pay phone makers to ensure that its search engine is the default on browsers. “For a general search engine, by far the most effective means of distribution is to be the preset default general search engine for mobile and computer search access points,” the lawsuit explains. “Even where users can change the default, they rarely do. This leaves the preset default search engine with de facto exclusivity.” 

These are only one of the accusations that the lawsuit makes against the company. While Google, as well as the other Big Tech companies, has been accused of anti-conservative bias. However, this particular suit does not focus on political censorship. 

As stated previously, this lawsuit is likely an opening salvo in the overall conflict between the state, consumer, and Big Tech. President Trump has railed against these companies since he took office, so it is no surprise that the battle has now intensified. But the question is: What will it look like if the DOJ wins?

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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