DOJ files antitrust lawsuit against Google's search business

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2020
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, accusing the tech giant of abusing its position to become a "gatekeeper" to the Internet by working to ensure its search service is used instead of its competitors.




Filed in a Washington D.C. Federal court on Tuesday, the lawsuit puts forward the antitrust argument that Google is spending considerable sums to companies like Apple to make its search service the default in browsers like Safari. Officials also said the lawsuit takes on agreements relating to Android, where Google requires its search tools to be preinstalled on devices from other companies.

The DOJ is joined by 11 state attorneys general in the lawsuit, representing Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

The government suggests Google's actions are unlawfully exclusionary, sources of the Wall Street Journal claim, due to its interconnected list of agreements that prevent rivals from adequately competing. For Android, the agreements allegedly prohibit the inclusion of rival search tools from lists of preloaded apps on a device.

By acting to ensure it is the default search in Safari and minimizing the chance of others gaining ground on Android, the Department of Justice believes this makes Google too powerful. Officials reckon Google either owns or controls search channels covering approximately 80% of US-based searches, which means rival services cannot acquire enough of an audience to grow, preventing anyone else from scaling and becoming adequate competition for Google.

The officials believe this leaves consumers with fewer options for search, while advertisers have to deal with uncompetitive prices.

The prospect of the lawsuit has been around for quite some time, with repeated reports the Department of Justice was planning some form of legal action against Google. It also follows after investigations by the Justice Department and state prosecutors into Google over antitrust issues, including the possibility of having it break off its browser or advertising business.

The lawsuit will also arrive in the same month that the US House of Representatives recommended the break-up of major tech companies like Google, including Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Following a number of antitrust hearings, a report from the House antitrust subcommittee suggests the major tech companies have tremendous power over markets, and that changes should be made to counter this.

The existence of a lawsuit for Google over one of its main product areas doesn't bode well for tech companies at all. This includes Apple, which has become involved in numerous antitrust activities in recent years, with the App Store receiving the lion's share of attention.

Google offered an initial response via its public policy Twitter account, calling the lawsuit "deeply flawed." According to the company, "People use Google because they choose to -- not because they're forced to or because they can't find alternatives."

A full statement followed a few hours later, continuing the "flawed" theme and arguing users have plenty of options to use other search engines with relative ease, but they elect to use Google.

Rival commentary

Following the announcement of the lawsuit, others in the tech industry have started to pass comment on the lawsuit.

DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg commented on Twitter that the privacy-focused search company is "pleased the DOJ has taken this key step in holding Google accountable for the ways it has blocked competition, locked people into using its products, and achieved a market position so dominant they refuse to even talk about it out loud."

Meanwhile, a blog post from Yelp is also positive about the DOJ's lawsuit, calling it a "critical first step in confronting Google's anticompetitive abuses and monopoly power in search."

Referencing a "self-serving bias" where consumers are "unwittingly steered" to Google's own services, Yelp suggests "by systematically reducing the quality of its search results in order to entrench and extend its search and search advertising monopolies, Google is directly harming consumers."

Yelp goes on to applaud the DOJ and "encourages swift action" by state attorneys on the matter.

US Department of Justice Versus Google by Mike Wuerthele on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    Lord help us if this action forces Apple to use Bing
    christophbtokyojimuwatto_cobraCarnage
  • Reply 2 of 47
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,337member
    The existence of a lawsuit for Google over one of its main product areas doesn't bode well for tech companies at all.
    The bad news for Apple is they might lose the massive payments from Google for default search engine on iOS. But otherwise Mr Bill is right — these big tech companies are actually very different. I don’t think we can read much into this regarding what’s likely to happen with other companies.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 47
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,337member
    Lord help us if this action forces Apple to use Bing
    No, it wouldn’t remotely do that. 

    More likely it would force Apple to offer users a choice of default search browser when setting up a phone.. Of course, everyone will then choose Google anyway.

    the irony is that this could be great for Google. Most iOS users will still pick them but now they don’t have to pay Apple anything. 
    randominternetpersonlkruppcornchipmuthuk_vanalingamGrayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 47
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,466member
    I quit using Google search when Apple allowed other search engines. I use Duck-Duck-Go and it works fine. 
    mobirdGeorgeBMaclorca2770JFC_PAchristophbrotateleftbytejdb8167cat52Beatsjahblade
  • Reply 5 of 47
    In the meantime out in the China ranch, big tech companies are chipping away w no restrictions and taking over American know hows. Why are our government too intrusive of our tech’s inventions? They pay their share of taxes for Congress to spends....So what happened to MA Bell??? ATT is again huge....
    Beatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 47
    The "uncompetitive prices" part is the danger zone for Google. I can't claim to know what evidence the Justice Department is going to use to support that, but it could potentially end up being very costly to their bottom line if it held up. 
    randominternetpersoncat52Grayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 47
    While I don’t know if there is a definite case here, unlike the ‘monopoly’ of the App Store this accusation does make sense. Google came as a user of the internet providing a search service alongside other search services like AltaVista, and perhaps they’ve leveraged their success and huge resources to push competition out of a open market.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 47
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 8,996member
    We can no longer trust anything this now highly politicized Justice Department does or says.

    Google has long been the target of conservatives angry that their propaganda and conspiracy theories don't pop up at the top of every search.   Now, they have the long arm of the law to twist arms and insure that that happens.
    dewmeJFC_PAtenthousandthingsomar moralesleavingthebiggjahbladeFileMakerFellerGrayeaglejony0
  • Reply 9 of 47
    Sadly they’re not going after Google for its evil data harvesting and ethnically challenged research that is in turn used to better addict users to their advertising and profile auction  engine erroneously called a “search” engine—that even when you say no they still keep harvesting and analyzing you…
    cornchipcat52jahbladeFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 47
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,466member
    blastdoor said:
    Lord help us if this action forces Apple to use Bing
    No, it wouldn’t remotely do that. 

    More likely it would force Apple to offer users a choice of default search browser when setting up a phone.. Of course, everyone will then choose Google anyway.

    the irony is that this could be great for Google. Most iOS users will still pick them but now they don’t have to pay Apple anything. 
    Apple already allows you to choose a different search engine for both iOS and macOS. It's been this way for a few years. I don't remember if there's a specific install operation that allows you to select which search engine to use but it does retain the old search engine setting when upgrading, just like almost all the other settings. The only thing Apple could do to force people to make a selection is to force download a configuration application that requires the user to select the search engine they want to use. Problem is most people will simply select the first one or the one they know they want to use. 
    Grayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 47
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,466member
    The problem with search engines is they're not the only way Google and others get information. Running the latest Safari for macOS, here's a comparison of Duck-Duck-Go security essentials and Apple's built-in tracker (notice the security upgrade AI changed recently):



    Notice, almost every website still tries to use Google's google-analytics as well as doubleclick, tracking everything you do not matter which search engine you use. I don't have to have DDG's privacy essentials to run since I have Safari's tracker but it also checks other security things, including the unknown privacy practices AI and others use.
    cat52leavingthebiggjahbladeFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 12 of 47
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,890member
    rob53 said:
    I quit using Google search when Apple allowed other search engines. I use Duck-Duck-Go and it works fine. 
    Well, you are in the vast minority. Remember, what you read on tech blogs is not in any way reflective of the general population. The nerd herd and its opinions cannot be extrapolated to cover the majority of users. Not even close.
    mike1dewmecornchipBeatsGrayeaglewatto_cobraCarnageDetnatorjony0
  • Reply 13 of 47
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,426member
    Apple's next which will be good for the millions of their customers and those developing software for the platform. I look forward to a the time when these monopolies have been wrangled and technology can bring us real advancements again. 
  • Reply 14 of 47
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,426member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    In the meantime out in the China ranch, big tech companies are chipping away w no restrictions and taking over American know hows. Why are our government too intrusive of our tech’s inventions? They pay their share of taxes for Congress to spends....So what happened to MA Bell??? ATT is again huge....
    Verizon, T Mobile, Sprint, etc.... Ma Bell was THE phone company back in the day. If Ma Bell was not interested in cellular technology then there would not have been any in the USA
  • Reply 15 of 47
    christophbchristophb Posts: 1,476member
    blastdoor said:
    Lord help us if this action forces Apple to use Bing
    No, it wouldn’t remotely do that. 

    More likely it would force Apple to offer users a choice of default search browser when setting up a phone.. Of course, everyone will then choose Google anyway.

    the irony is that this could be great for Google. Most iOS users will still pick them but now they don’t have to pay Apple anything. 
    Then the DOJ will file suit that Google paid Apple to put Google at the top of the list.  ;) 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 47
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,385member
    We can no longer trust anything this now highly politicized Justice Department does or says.

    Google has long been the target of conservatives angry that their propaganda and conspiracy theories don't pop up at the top of every search.   Now, they have the long arm of the law to twist arms and insure that that happens.
    Right, because we could trust it under the previous administration.  You know, the one that spied on a presidential campaign using fake, foreign information.  The one that drummed up a fake case against General Flynn, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos?  The one that refused to prosecute Hillary Clinton despite massive evidence of guilt? That one?  
    edited October 2020 cornchipcat52jcallowswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 47
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,385member

    spice-boy said:
    Apple's next which will be good for the millions of their customers and those developing software for the platform. I look forward to a the time when these monopolies have been wrangled and technology can bring us real advancements again. 
    I don't think Apple is next.  Not all monopolies are illegal.  In fact, it's a stretch to call the App Store a monopoly.  You have to use it if you want to use Apple's products.  But there are other products that don't require it.  It's just not the same.  Unless it's shown that Apple is illegally harming competing software developers in favor of their own products, it's not the same case.  
    cat52watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 47
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,466member
    sdw2001 said:
    We can no longer trust anything this now highly politicized Justice Department does or says.

    Google has long been the target of conservatives angry that their propaganda and conspiracy theories don't pop up at the top of every search.   Now, they have the long arm of the law to twist arms and insure that that happens.
    Right, because we could trust it under the previous administration.  You know, the one that spied on a presidential campaign using fake, foreign information.  The one that drummed up a fake case against General Flynn, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos?  The one that refused to prosecute Hillary Clinton despite massive evidence of guilt? That one?  
    Are you talking about the one Flynn plead guilty to?
    GeorgeBMacjdb8167leavingthebiggjahbladeFileMakerFellerfastasleepwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 19 of 47
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,385member
    This was inevitable.  And it's going to touch on other areas, such as YouTube.   I don't mean bias, either.  Right now, if you Google a video you want to find on the competing platform, Rumble, you'll get a bunch of YouTube links.   Default search engines are one thing....deliberately excluding competitors of your subsidiary is another.  Google is going to get destroyed on this.  
    cornchipcat52FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 47
    sdw2001 said: The one that refused to prosecute Hillary Clinton despite massive evidence of guilt? That one?  
    Dude...the GOP was in control of the House investigations for both Benghazi and the email server. They never uncovered any evidence against Clinton that would warrant charges, and neither did the FBI (headed by a Republican) or the State Department (during the Trump administration). And that was after a total of five years worth of investigation...two years for Benghazi and three years for the email server. 

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2016/06/28/final-benghazi-report-no-smoking-gun-pointing-to-clinton/

    https://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-cleared-wrongdoing-private-email-probe-1466426
    edited October 2020 jdb8167jahbladeFileMakerFellerfastasleepjony0
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