On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued Google for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition, since its ground-breaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. Other major tech companies including Apple, Amazon, and Facebook are under investigation at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
While Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising, the US Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters “Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth. It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
The case filed in federal court in Washington, DC, alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to payphone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. On the other hand, critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.
The lawsuit, which was joined by 11 states all with Republican attorneys general, joined the federal government in the lawsuit. This marks the biggest antitrust case in a generation, comparable to the lawsuit against Microsoft Corp filed in 1998 and the 1974 case against ATT which led to the breakup of the Bell System.
Although the Justice Department didn’t lay out specific remedies, it asked the court to order structural relief “as needed to remedy any anticompetitive harm.” That opens the door to possible fundamental changes such as a spinoff of the company’s Chrome browser.
Meanwhile, Google vowed to defend itself and responded immediately via tweet: “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.”