DOJ Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google Likely in Coming Months

As we highlighted last week, the Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general met on Friday, June 26 to discuss their antitrust investigations of Google. We’ve now learned that the DOJ expects to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google in the coming months. The focus from DOJ is on Google’s dominance of the digital advertising market as well as its leveraging its Search dominance to entrench other products.

These moves come at a time when Google’s anti competitive actions are garnering greater scrutiny from regulators, scholars and nonprofit organizations. Here are just a few tactics that Google has employed to ensure that no competitor or news publisher could surpass it or thrive in this suppressed market.

  • Google has utilized its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to harm publisher revenue and use its position as the dominant search engine to force publishers into unfair agreements. In these unbalanced agreements, Google has single handedly forced news organizations into implementing AMP or choosing to lose crucial web traffic. AMP gives Google more user data and less revenue for news outlets. 
  • Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies that will leave “Google with a virtual monopoly in digital advertising services for the open web.” Google’s own study found that eliminating cookies would reduce ad revenue for news publishers by 62%, giving it an unfair advantage over news publishers in their competition for digital ad revenue. 
  • Google set the rules by developing a “feature” that would change its Incognito Mode— barring publishers from detecting when a user is on incognito mode further weakening pay walls. 
  • For months, Google refused to comply with the EU’s digital copyright law that would force the tech giant to pay news outlets for displaying its content. The UK Competition and Markets Authority held that the profit that Google extracts from the digital advertising market “is consistent with the exploitation of market power.” 

These tactics underscore Google’s total system dominance over the online marketplace that makes it more like a Gilded Age horror story. 

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter at HuffPost and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project : 

“There is an obvious antitrust case to be made against Google and we have the receipts. While the tech behemoth makes obscene profits, news publishers and smaller competitors are faltering. With it’s anti competitive actions, Google is a parasite sucking the life out of news outlets. It’s unilateral actions on AMP, 3PC phase out, and Incognito Mode actively harm publishers. If the DOJ can’t bring Google to heel, there won’t be anybody left to write the story.”