State AGs Accuse Google of Abusing Its Monopoly on Search in Third Antitrust Suit

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard (Getty Images)

We’ve waited years to see antitrust action taken against Google, and now there’s too much to keep up with. On Thursday, more than 30 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the search giant claiming that its search giant-ness has become too giant.

Big corporations require big legal action, and the lawsuit announced today is the third major antitrust action against Google since October. The latest suit was filed by a group of attorneys general representing 36 states and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser led the case, and in a press release, his office said that the case being made by states builds on the allegations made in the Justice Department’s concurrent lawsuit.

Like the DOJ, the state attorneys general allege that Google uses a variety of contracts and arrangements to prevent competition in the search engine market. The states go further in outlining how Google has used its position and power to harm specialized search services in areas like travel and home repair by allegedly downranking them in results. This is a drum that Yelp has been beating for a long time.

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The suit also claims that Google intentionally limits the interoperability of Search Ads 360 tool with its competitors. The tool helps advertisers compare search ad rates, is “the single largest such tool used by advertisers,” and the suit claims that it disadvantages anyone looking to become the next Google.

“Google’s anticompetitive actions have protected its general search monopolies and excluded rivals, depriving consumers of the benefits of competitive choices, forestalling innovation, and undermining new entry or expansion,” Weiser said in a statement. “This lawsuit seeks to restore competition.”

Weiser said at a news conference that it’s too early to discuss potential remedies in the event that the case is successful. And the legal proceedings should give us a lot more detail to parse over the coming months—or more likely, years.

In addition to today’s suit and the one filed by the DOJ in October, a separate group of states led by Texas AG Ken Paxton filed an antitrust case against Google on Tuesday that focuses on alleged market manipulation of display ads across the web and engaging in anticompetitive partnerships with Facebook to maintain dominance over the web ads market.

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Google did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment. In a blog post, its director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, said the latest litigation “seeks to redesign search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers.” Google, he said, looks forward “to making that case in court.”

The American Economic Liberties Project, a non-profit dedicated to promoting aggressive antitrust enforcement, applauded the ways the three lawsuits work in conjunction to address Google’s allegedly monopolistic tactics. “Google’s business model is a threat to democracy,” AELP’s executive director, Sarah Miller, said in a statement on Thursday. “By taking aim at Google’s entrenched search monopoly, these enforcers are not only holding Google accountable but are also finally taking the steps necessary to re-establish an open internet.”

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DISCUSSION

How did they have time for this what with so many of them trying to overturn the vote and all? “Google’s business model is a threat to democracy,”  Google isn’t as much a threat to democracy as a bunch of Attorneys General trying to overthrow the will of the people.