Tech

Google antitrust: the lawsuits just keep coming


As many as 38 state attorneys general filed the latest suit against Google Thursday. The suit alleges that the company has operated an illegal monopoly in the markets for online search and search advertising.

The lawsuit is being led by eight states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. It mirrors an earlier antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department and 11 states earlier this fall that claimed Google uses anticompetitive agreements to secure a dominant position for its search engine on smartphones.

But it also goes further, tacking on additional allegations that Google moved to block or downrank search results from specialized engines in the travel, home improvement and entertainment sectors.

“The states also allege that Google’s acquisition and command of vast amounts of data obtained because of consumers’ lack of choice has fortified Google’s monopolies and created new barriers to competition and consumer value,” said a release from the office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement: “For decades now, Google has served as the gatekeeper of the internet and has weaponized our data to kill off competitors and control our decision making — resulting in all of us paying more for the services we use every day.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thursday’s lawsuit opens up vast new fronts against Google by going after other parts of its operation that were either skipped or minimally addressed by the Justice Department suit, legal experts say.

The new complaint highlights how Google’s alleged decision to prioritize its own services at the expense of rival websites that also provide search — which could include sites such as Hotels.com or Angie’s List, said David Dinielli, a former Justice Department antitrust official and a senior adviser at the Omidyar Network.

The outcome appears to harm consumers and small businesses, Dinielli said.

Google's defense against antitrust lawsuit? You

“If you are a hotel in Taos, you can’t rely on the fact that you have good ratings on Hotels.com or that there was an article that mentioned you in Travel & Leisure, because Google has decided to monetize the vast majority of the first screen of search results,” Dinielli said. “The only way you can reach the customers you want to reach are to pay Google to ensure you are on that first screen as an ad, rather than as an organic result.”

As part of Thursday’s suit, the states behind the complaint are also moving to merge their case with the Justice Department’s.

The lawsuit comes a day after Texas and nine other states sued Google alleging anticompetitive practices in the advertising technology industry.

The coalition is currently reviewing the complaint filed by Texas, according to a person familiar with the matter, but no decision has been made about whether to participate in that case.



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