According to CNN Business, this Tuesday the Trump administration will be moving to sue Google in what you would call the largest antitrust case against a tech company in more than two decades.
In the complaint, the DOJ is alleging that Google has stifled competition to maintain its position in the marketplace for online search. Public court records show that 11 states will be included in the complaint; Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas, according to public court records.
The complaint follows a year-long antitrust probe by DOJ investigators. The major congressional report found that Google and other tech giants enjoyed “monopoly power” and have wielded their dominance in anti-competitive ways. The report also alleges that Amazon has mistreated third-party sellers and that Apple’s app store fees and policies are anti-competitive, and that Facebook has sought to eliminate future rivals through targeted acquisitions.
Their lawsuit against Google marks the most consequential step the US government has taken to hold Silicon Vally accountable after Washington took a huge turn against the tech industry following evidence that social media platforms were manipulated by foreign election meddling efforts in 2016. Since then, top executives of major tech platforms have been brought before Congress to face questions about their responsibilities toward political speech; hateful content and misinformation; small businesses and local journalism; and competition.
The emerging case could pose a risk to Google’s advertising business, which brought in $134.8 billion in revenue last year which accounts for 84% of their total business.
As the DOJ prepares to take Google to court over antitrust concerns, others in the tech industry could face similar lawsuits. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission have been investigating Facebook for over a year and the investigation could lead up to its own landmark litigation.
The lawsuit also symbolizes the growing criticism against historic levels of economic inequality and corporate concentration in the United States, particularly by former Democratic presidential candidates including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.
Former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, William Kovacic told CNN Business “The most important tech industry monopolization case before this one was United States v. Microsoft in 1998.” The US government alleged that during this case, Microsoft broke the law by bundling its browser, Internet Explorer, with every copy of Windows which hurt the competition among browser makers. After several years, Microsoft and the government reached a settlement that imposed new limits on Microsoft’s software business.
The case has since paved the way for new innovation, including the rise of Google.
The government faces years of litigation ahead and a challenging path to victory said, Kovacic. “None of this will be easy,” he said. “You can climb to the summit, but it’s a tough climb.” The New York Times reports that Attorney General William Barr has taken a personal interest in the investigation and the resulting lawsuit.
Barr assigned senior staff from his own office to oversee the probe after the Head of DOJ’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, dismissed himself over previously representing Google in private practice. According to the Wall Street Journal, Barr reportedly pushed for an aggressive timeline for filing a suit earlier this year in March. He hoped to bring the investigation “to fruition in early summer.”
Donald Trump who has been vocal in his criticism on tech platforms will be apart of the case as well. He has repeatedly blasted Facebook, Google, and Twitter for allegedly systematically censoring conservative views. A claim that the major social media platform companies deny and experts have found no evidence. Trump told Fox Business, “we should be suing Google and Facebook and all that, which perhaps we will, okay?”
Trump’s comments could make the lawsuit targeting tech companies difficult. By nature, presidents are supposed to steer clear of addressing government investigations and potential lawsuits in order to avoid the perception of politically motivated litigations.
Google’s critics have complained that its search business promotes Google’s own apps and services to users while demoting those of its rivals.
David Dinielli, a senior advisor at Omidyar Network and a former DOJ antitrust official told CNN Business, “Google search is not a neutral gateway to the information available on the web.” He said, “Google search is a set of algorithms designed to make Google — or Alphabet, its parent company — the most money it can possibly make.”