For Google, this is the most crucial week in its modern history, as it faces a pivotal case within its business: are they or are they not a monopoly in internet search? And, worst of all, have they unfairly eliminated competition?
The trial for a historic antitrust case against Google is set to begin on Tuesday in a Washington courtroom. The Mountain View giant is accused of monopolizing the online search space.
The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2020, represents the biggest legal challenge to the power and influence of big tech companies in decades and could be a milestone in the fight against industry monopolies.
The future of the internet hinges on this major trial
“The trial about Google’s search will have enormous consequences for our digital world, as the outcome will determine how millions of Americans access and use the Internet,” said Katherine Van Dyck, Senior Advisor of the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit organization that filed a motion to make the court proceedings public due to the case’s importance.
The Department of Justice has accused Google of using its market power to unfairly block its rivals and position itself as the “God of the internet.”
This is the first case brought by the government against Google that has gone to trial. Additionally, the Department of Justice has also joined another case against Google filed by attorneys general from 38 states and territories over monopoly issues in advertising.
Google has denied any wrongdoing in both cases and has not immediately responded to requests for comments. The Department of Justice has also not made any comments.
In documents filed last month, Judge Amit P Mehta dismissed a handful of charges against Google, narrowing the case in a minor victory for the company.
He stated that Google was not obligated to defend itself against accusations that the design of its search results page had harmed rivals like Expedia or Yelp.
Nevertheless, Mehta allowed some of the more significant allegations to proceed, including the key arguments that Google’s exclusive contracts with phone manufacturers allegedly harmed competitors.
The department alleges that the company pays billions each year to “secure the default status of its general search engine and, in many cases, to specifically prohibit Google’s counterparties from dealing with Google’s competitors.”
Mehta stated in an opinion revealed in August that the “Google brand has become so ubiquitous that dictionaries recognize it as a verb.” According to Mehta, in 2020, Google had nearly 90% market share, and advertisers spent over $80 billion annually just to reach users.
The judge said that the Department of Justice is required to demonstrate that each specific action (for example, how Google manages advertising in searches) constitutes a violation of antitrust law. This means that the government cannot demonstrate a series of actions and argue that these cumulatively violate antitrust law.
“We look forward to demonstrating in court that the promotion and distribution of our services are lawful and pro-competitive,” said Kent Walker, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, in response to Mehta’s decision.
They also went after Meta
While big tech companies have remained virtually unscathed during decades of unbridled success, lawsuits like this one against Google could mark a shift in the trend.
Attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Meta that was dismissed earlier this year. The Federal Trade Commission, under the leadership of Lina Khan, also filed a lawsuit against Amazon earlier this year.
The outcome of the Google case, the first major one of its kind to go to court, could be a signal of how much the tables may turn in the future.