Google versus the US Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit — the story so farOctober 26, 2020
The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October, claiming the search giant abuses its position to keep competitors out. Here’s what you need to know about the situation, including what started the probes and where we are now.
Major tech companies such as Apple and Google have been the targets for criticism, with their large sizes prompting some to closely examine rules and practices of big firms for any potential issues. Antitrust accusations have been raised countless times by observers and those who feel wronged by those at the top of the food chain, and occasionally that leads to investigations and sometimes a lawsuit.
In this particular thread, we are covering the antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Google, one which accuses it of having too much power in search, to the detriment of any other potential competitor. While the Department of Justice believes there is some antitrust violations in play with Google’s search-related dealings, the company itself insists it is innocent, and that the lawsuit is meritless.
If Google fails to convince the court otherwise, it could be forced to pay fines, or worse, be forced to sell off or separate parts of its business. Since this also occurs during a time when the US government and other international regulators are applying pressure on tech firms for seeming antitrust issues, the lawsuit will be closely watched.
Here’s how we reached this point.
An avoidable situation
Google’s current antitrust situation could have been avoided completely, an October report from the New York Post claimed, with Google’s general resistance to attempts by regulators to rein in its behavior allegedly forcing the DOJ into its legal action. The lack of previous cooperation with authorities has led to a situation where the DOJ is going for the heavy-handed approach.
This includes a 2012 attempt by the FTC to offer Google a plea deal over allegations of anticompetitive practices, which sources claim would have most likely protected the company from the latest legal dispute. The FTC offer included a consent agreement that allowed Google to not admit guilt, if it would cut out some of its search activities.
This included cutting down on its scraping of content from third-party sites like Yelp, performed without a crediting link, as well as eliminating Google-created restrictions on advertisers being prevented from working with competing sites.
“Google resisted everything,” the source claimed. “They said, ‘We don’t think you have the votes to sue.”
By 2013, the FTC announced Google had agreed to change its policies for site scraping and ad sales, but via a non-binding “commitment letter.” The letter have the FTC no authority over Google to monitor its activity and ensure compliance.
“They would have been smart to sign a consent decree with the FTC,” the source added, as while the agreement would have put it under the FTC’s jurisdiction for between seven and ten…