DoJ Accuses Google Of Harming Online Publishers In Fiery Antitrust Lawsuit

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The US Department of Justice and eight state attorneys general have filed an antitrust case against Google. If you're thinking this has happened before, you'd be right. However, this time the DOJ is going after Google's crown jewel: the ad tech business. According to the complaint, filed in federal court in Virginia, Google has systematically stifled competition and abused its market position, but the company, naturally, denies this. Google claims it has adhered to the letter of the law and says the DOJ is trying to "pick winners and losers in a competitive industry."

According to the DOJ, Google has spent the past 15 years building up its ad business at the expense of free competition. The government points to Google's frequent acquisitions of competing ad tech businesses, as well as the way it has inserted itself into every level of online advertising. "In doing so, Google cemented its dominance in tools relied on by website publishers and online advertisers, as well as the digital advertising exchange that runs ad auctions," the department says in a statement.

Google argues that its acquisitions have been reviewed by regulators and allowed to proceed. It also calls attention to the plethora of other online ad companies as evidence that there is still robust competition in the industry. And then there's the matter of the antitrust action brought by the Texas Attorney General and a cadre of other states, which made similar allegations about Google's ad deals with Facebook. Google is keen to point out that most of that case has been thrown out by federal courts.

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However, the Justice Department's case is the product of a years-long investigation, and the Texas case had political overtones. The new DOJ filing is joined by California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia. The government statement includes several examples of how Google is allegedly manipulating the market to its own advantage beyond acquisitions. The DOJ says Google seeks to lock publishers into using its tools, while also running its ad auctions in a way that gives it an advantage.

This is the second case the DOJ has running against Google. In 2020, the department sued Google over the way it pays device makers to make Google search their default search engine. That case is set for trial in 2023. It could take much longer for this new, more complex case to wind its way through the courts. If the government is successful, it could force Google to break up its ad business.