The US Department of Justice has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of “unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets”.
It’s the latest (and biggest) move in the US antitrust debate over big tech companies, following the recent high-profile hearing involving Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
The DoJ is going in hard, too. “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” said attorney general Bill Barr.
Google got its response out speedily, as you’d expect. “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” claimed its SVP of global affairs Kent Walker. “This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers.”
As with the Trump administration’s moves against TikTok, the timing is challenging – ahead of a presidential election whose aftermath looks increasingly uncertain, and amid a global pandemic.
However, the timeline will be long: in the obvious corresponding lawsuit – launched against Microsoft in May 1998 – the key judgement (that it should be broken up) came two years later, in June 2000, followed by an appeals process, and an ultimate settlement in November 2001.