Today, the Department of Justice argued before a federal judge that Google’s misuse of its dominant position as a search engine to suppress rivals like Microsoft constituted an unconstitutional monopolisation of the market.
Attorney Kenneth Dintzer of the Department of Justice stated in opening remarks that “this case is about the future of the internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition.” The trial is an antitrust effort to break up Google’s power over the internet search and advertising sector. “We must learn from the past if we are to safeguard that future.”
According to Dintzer’s statements to U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., Google’s illegal monopoly dates back to at least 2010. He said that Google’s “data and ad-driven feedback loop” “has been turning for more than 12 years — and it always turns to Google’s advantage.”
The Department of Justice is suing Google, alleging that the business has risen to the top of the search engine industry not due to a superior product, but rather due to its illegal use of its financial resources to box out its competitors.
Dintzer argued that “Google’s scale hermetically seals it from competition,” and that Google’s competitors will testify that “data is necessary to compete.” Furthermore, “direct evidence that Google is ignoring privacy concerns because it does not care about competition,” as stated by Dintzer. When Google does something, it “affects all consumers, even those that prefer Google.”
Mehta, who was appointed by Obama, will rule in the two-month long bench trial. Mehta remarked that the courtroom “had the highest concentration of blue suits in D.C.” as the trial began before a full house. Attorney General Jonathan Kanter and several of his senior subordinates, as well as Google’s lead counsel and defence architect Kent Walker, were present in court.
A huge loss in court for Google could result in the need for the firm to restructure its operations or perhaps sell off important divisions. Internet companies similar to Google would be unnerved by this news because they, too, are targets of investigations and litigation.
Google’s initial declaration challenged the government’s position. When the plaintiffs initially filed these claims over three years ago, they did so with much public fanfare, according to the company’s main attorney, John Schmidtlein. The DOJ, he said, “claimed Google was the gatekeeper of the internet,” but there are actually many alternatives to Google as the default search engine. And they’re used frequently by the public.”
Over the next eight to ten weeks, top executives from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and other companies will testify about the pros and cons of Google’s monopolistic internet presence, debating whether Google is an aggrieved innovator being punished for its success, or whether it has intentionally stifled competition for its own financial gain.
Google’s dominance as the default search engine on online browsers and mobile phones, as well as its control over the advertisements that populate search results, are at the heart of the lawsuit, which is valued at tens of billions of dollars yearly for Google and its partners. Google does not share the dollar amounts of these agreements.
The Department of Justice claims that anticompetitive contracts have prevented customers from receiving the kinds of high-quality, innovative services that may arise only when firms face real competition.
The search giant “walks when it should run,” Dintzer remarked. “The quality of results suffers as a direct result of the lack of investment.”
Schmidtlein, however, said that supporting Microsoft was the primary motivation behind the lawsuit. “At every critical juncture, the evidence will show that they [Microsoft] were beaten in the market — preferring instead to focus on their Windows monopoly,” Schmidtlein added.
Schmidtlein remarked, “All of these companies want to be the default.” The battles to become the default “are good for search innovation — and if Google is prevented from competing, that is not going to make Microsoft or DuckDuckGo, or anyone else, run faster.”
The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Microsoft relies significantly on the agency’s antitrust case against the software giant from the late 1990s. There, authorities charged Microsoft with monopolistic behaviour for including Internet Explorer as the default browser in its Windows OS, thereby stifling any competition from Netscape and other browsers.
At first, the district court ruled in favour of the government, which included dissolving the firm. That was overturned on appeal, and the issue was settled with Microsoft promising not to exclude competing software from its agreements with PC manufacturers. However, the decision remains an important legal precedent in monopolisation instances.
Schmidtlein, however, claimed that Google’s actions are unique. “Microsoft violated U.S. antitrust law by using its Windows monopoly to… delete a browser preferred by consumers,” he claimed. To quote Google: “Google competed on the merits to earn pre-installation and default status… those facts could not be more opposite and different than U.S. versus Microsoft.”
The Department of Justice is suing Google because, according to some reports, the company commands as much as 90% of the global and American search engine markets combined. With a “wall of defaults,” the corporation “protects this money machine,” Dintzer said.
Mozilla’s decision to return to Google as the default search engine for the Firefox browser after a brief experiment with Yahoo! is cited by the search giant as proof of Google’s superiority.
But Dinzter said Yahoo! paid more than Google, therefore the company turned back to Google because the increased number of ads hurt the service’s quality.
The federal government and individual states accuse Google of illegally dominating the “general search” and “general search advertising” industries. That basically only leaves Google, Bing (from Microsoft), and a few more niche companies like DuckDuckGo. According to Google, this overlooks important data from platforms like Amazon and TikTok.
Mehta proved to be an engaged interrogator by barraging Dintzer and Cavanaugh with questions throughout opening comments. They wanted answers to questions like why Amazon and TikTok are not direct rivals. “Why is that wrong?” Mehta questioned.
Dintzer argued that these services do not properly index the web. TikTok data can only be used to explain TikTok data. It’s not that those other services can’t answer any queries at all; it’s just that they can’t answer all inquiries using data pulled from the web.
The majority of states, plus DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico, have joined the Department of Justice in a lawsuit against Google. They have made similar charges to the DOJ, as well as allegations that Google prevented advertisers from purchasing ads on Microsoft’s Bing by using Google’s SA360 advertising platform.
The states also argued that Google’s treatment of more niche competitors, such as Yelp for local businesses and Expedia for travel, is unfair. Mehta dismissed the latter argument last month, stating that the AGs provided no evidence that Google’s actions hurt the niche search industry.
“With SA360, Google puts another thumb on the scale, denying features to Microsoft,” William Cavanaugh stated on the states’ behalf. According to Cavanaugh, Google refused to let Microsoft’s advertising use capabilities that Google was already using.
The Department of Justice and other states have claimed that Google has actively worked to thwart their investigation and lawsuit. In addition, the government claims that Google abused its legal privilege to withhold other documents and destroyed a large amount of evidence in the form of deleted internal instant communications. Throughout the trial, there will be arguments over where the evidence is, and if Mehta decides the corporation behaved maliciously, he may punish it.
On Tuesday, Hal Varian, Google’s longstanding head economist, was the Department of Justice’s first witness.
Dintzer questioned Varian on a report he penned in 2003, in which he said that Microsoft integrating search into Windows “poses a serious threat to Google.”
Defence, according to Varian’s article, “involve[s] increasing costs and reducing benefits” of clients switching search engines.
Further, he wrote, “However, we do have to be alert to antitrust implications. Consider: we’ve established ourselves as the market leader and are actively discouraging any new entrants.