The Department of Justice charged Google on Tuesday with illegally maintaining a monopoly on search and search advertising, teeing off a legal battle likely to take years and send shockwaves across Silicon Valley.
The lawsuit, filed in District of Columbia federal court, is the result of a year-long investigation into concentrations of economic power in the online economy. The DOJ argues that Google has entered into exclusionary contracts with phone makers to preload its search engine onto devices using Alphabet’s Android operating system, according to The Hill.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate on Tuesday welcomed the DOJ’s move to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google that claims the tech behemoth used its power to preserve its monopoly via its search engine.
“Today’s lawsuit is the most important antitrust case in a generation,” Sen. Josh Hawley, said in a statement. “Google and its fellow Big Tech monopolists exercise unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans, controlling everything from the news we read to the security of our most personal information. And Google in particular has gathered and maintained that power through illegal means.”
#MORE The compaint alleges Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in markets for “general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising" and that Google has maintained that monopoly through “anticompetitive and exclusionary practices.”
— Greta Wall (@GretaLWall) October 20, 2020
Those contracts have allowed Google to maintain a monopoly while stifling competition and innovation, the suit contends. It also accuses Google of using profits from that monopoly to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on web browsers, including Safari.
The Federal Trade Commission investigated whether Google had abused its search market power nearly a decade ago, but the five-person commission voted not to bring a case in 2013.
Eleven Republican state attorneys general joined the case filed Tuesday. Other attorneys general may choose to join the case later or bring their own challenges to Google’s position. The attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah said shortly after the case was filed that a bipartisan investigation into Google will continue.
“We appreciate the strong bipartisan cooperation among the states and the good working relationship with the DOJ on these serious issues,” they said in a statement. “We plan to conclude parts of our investigation of Google in the coming weeks. If we decide to file a complaint, we would file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJ’s.”
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen led the case, although, according to multiple reports, Attorney General Bill Barr was very involved in the investigation and pushed for it to be released before the upcoming election.
Google has called the lawsuit “deeply flawed” in its initial response to the case.