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United States v. Google LLC
CourtUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Full case nameUnited States, Commonwealth of Virginia, State of California, State of Colorado, State of Connecticut, State of New Jersey, State of New York, State of Rhode Island and State of Tennessee v. Google LLC
StartedJanuary 24, 2023
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingLeonie M. Brinkema

United States v. Google LLC is an ongoing federal antitrust case brought by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) against Google LLC on January 24, 2023.[1] The suit accuses Google of illegally monopolizing the advertising technology (adtech) market in violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The suit is separate from an ongoing DOJ antitrust case launched in 2020 accusing Google of illegally monopolizing the search engine market.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the suit aims to force Google to sell off significant portions adtech business and require the company to cease certain business practices.[2]

Background

From left to right: The Google Ad Manager advertising exchange platform, logo for the Google Ads online advertising platform, and the Google Marketing Platform analytics platform

Beginning in the 2000s, Google gradually increased its presence in the adtech market, with the company acquiring DoubleClick, Invite Media, and AdMeld.[3] The acquisition of DoubleClick received criticism from privacy groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to scrutinize the deal.[4] The FTC ultimately approved the $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in December 2007.[5]

By 2021, Google's adtech division was the company's second largest business behind Google Search, generating approximately $31.7 billion in revenue for the company.[2] Jonathan Kanter, the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, likened Google's dominance in the adtech market to a situation in which Goldman Sachs or Citibank owned the New York Stock Exchange.[6]

During the 117th United States Congress, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators introduced legislation aimed at breaking up Google and other "Big Tech" companies alleged dominance in the market.[7] The legislation, known as the Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability (AMERICA) Act, was reintroduced in the 118th Congress.[8]

Proceedings

Following the filing of the lawsuit, the DOJ claimed it has documentation that would bolster its case. This includes an alleged statement by a Google advertising executive who took issue with the company "owning the platform, the exchange and a huge network", who compared it to if Goldman Sachs or Citibank owned the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).[2]

Positions of U.S. states on the lawsuit as of April 3, 2023
  States that filed alongside the DOJ against Google on January 14, 2023
  States that joined the lawsuit after January 14, 2023

In what has been described as an unconventional move for a federal antitrust lawsuit, the DOJ has pushed for a jury trial for the case.[9] In March 2023, judge Leonie Brinkema denied Google's request to move the lawsuit from the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to a venue in New York, which is considered a more favorable venue for Google.[10]

In March 2023, Google filed a motion to dismiss the case.[11] On April 28, Google's request for dismissal was denied by Brinkema, who stated that the DOJ's initial complaint sufficiently detailed for the case to proceed.[3]

State partnerships

The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with the attorney generals of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia on January 24, 2023.[1] Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, a Republican, stated that Tennessee is proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to hold Google accountable and protect consumers from its harmful ad tech monopoly."[12]

On April 3, 2023, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that the state would join the lawsuit.[5] On April 18, 2023, nine additional states joined the lawsuit, bringing the total to eighteen: Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia.[13]

Reaction and analysis

Lawmakers from both parties, including Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), spoke positively about the lawsuit.[14] Polling by YouGov in conjunction with The Economist found that Americans approved of the lawsuit by a 41% to 19% margin, with 40% stating they were "not sure".[15]

Google denied the DOJ's allegations, with a company spokesperson accusing the department of trying to unfairly "pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector."[16] The Chamber of Progress, a tech industry trade group whose membership includes Google, argued that the lawsuit is misguided amid a declining advertising market.[17]

Legal commentary

Commentators have argued that the basis of the DOJ's case is rooted in a relatively "traditional" interpretation of antitrust law, as opposed to more "novel" theories of anti-competitive harms associated with the New Brandeis movement.[18] The editorial board of the The Washington Post praised the lawsuit as "good, old-fashioned antitrust enforcement" in a February 2023 article.[19]

William Kovacic, a former Republican member of the FTC, has argued that the suit is a serious one that "adds another important complication to Google's efforts to deal with regulators worldwide."[2] Douglas Melamed, who served in the DOJ Antitrust Division during the Clinton Administration, argued that the DOJ "would get a remedy that’s going to shake up the market" if able to prove their claim in court. However, Melamed cautioned observers from assuming that the DOJ would win the case.[20]

Request for jury trial

Commentary surrounding the DOJ's request for a jury trial in the lawsuit has often described the decision as unusually and potentially risky. A January 2023 article in Bloomberg News suggested that the "surprising request" was made due to DOJ concerns about a hostile judicial environment.[9] According to Harry First of the New York University School of Law, the DOJ's effort to "seek damages and demand a jury trial in a monopolization case is unprecedented".[21]

Related lawsuits

According to The New York Times, the lawsuit is the fifth antitrust suit filed against Google by either the federal government or states attorney general since 2020.[2] The DOJ filed a separate antitrust case in October 2020 accusing Google of unlawfully monopolizing the search market.[22] Google's dominant position in the adtech market has additionally received legal scrutiny in both the European Union and the United Kingdom.[23]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Justice Department Sues Google for Monopolizing Digital Advertising Technologies". United States Department of Justice. January 24, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e McCabe, David; Grant, Nico (January 24, 2023). "U.S. Accuses Google of Abusing Monopoly in Ad Technology". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  3. ^ a b Montoya, Karina (March 9, 2023). "How Three Mergers Buttressed Google's Ad Tech Monopoly, Per DOJ". Tech Policy Press. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  4. ^ "Privacy Groups Challenge Google-DoubleClick Deal". CNBC. April 27, 2007. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Bartz, Diane (December 20, 2007). "Google wins antitrust OK to buy DoubleClick". Reuters. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  6. ^ Sisco, Josh (January 24, 2023). "Google accused of monopolizing $250B U.S. digital ad market". POLITICO. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  7. ^ Fung, Brian (May 19, 2022). "US senators target Big Tech's digital advertising machine with new legislation | CNN Business". CNN. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  8. ^ "Bipartisan US lawmakers introduce bill aimed at Google, Facebook ad clout". Reuters. March 30, 2023. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Birnbaum, Emily; Nylen, Leah (January 27, 2023). "Google Faces Rare Jury Trial in DOJ Bet on Public's Tech Unease". Bloomberg. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  10. ^ "Judge allows Google antitrust case to move ahead in Virginia". Associated Press. March 10, 2023. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  11. ^ Zakrzewski, Cat (March 27, 2023). "Google seeks dismissal of Justice Dept. lawsuit alleging an ad monopoly". Washington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  12. ^ "Tennessee Attorney General joins suit against Google". The Daily Times. January 28, 2023. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  13. ^ "Nine more US states join federal lawsuit against Google over ad tech". Reuters. April 17, 2023. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  14. ^ Tarinelli, Ryan; Macagnone, Michael (January 24, 2023). "Justice Department sues Google over digital advertising tech". Roll Call. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  15. ^ Orth, Taylor (February 7, 2023). "Most Americans see a lack of competition among tech companies as a serious problem | YouGov". YouGov. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  16. ^ Kruppa, Miles; Schechner, Sam; Michaels, Dave (January 24, 2023). "DOJ Sues Google, Seeking to Break Up Online Advertising Business". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  17. ^ Morrison, Sara (January 24, 2023). "Google's bad year is getting worse". Vox. Retrieved April 4, 2023. "The Chamber of Progress, a Google-funded Big Tech advocacy group, said in a statement that the case was "disconnected from economic reality" and that Google's digital ad market share (estimated to be about 29 percent in 2022, giving it the largest share of any one company) was "at an all-time low."
  18. ^ Mehra, Salil (March 9, 2023). "The DOJ's AdTech Suit Against Google Is Anything but Unconventional". ProMarket. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  19. ^ "Opinion | Why this Google antitrust lawsuit has promise". Washington Post. February 11, 2023. Retrieved April 4, 2023.
  20. ^ Feiner, Lauren (January 27, 2023). "The DOJ's antitrust case against Google is ambitious but risky". CNBC. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  21. ^ First, Harry (February 23, 2023). "Why "The Jury's Out" on the Government's Case Against Google's Ad Tech Monopoly". ProMarket. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  22. ^ Feiner, Lauren (October 20, 2020). "Google sued by DOJ in antitrust case over search dominance". CNBC. Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  23. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 13, 2022). "Google's adtech practices targeted in UK, EU antitrust damages suits". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 31, 2023.