FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo a sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. The Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Google has been abusing its online dominance in online search to stifle competition and harm consumers. The litigation marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. The suit could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo a sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. The Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Google has been abusing its online dominance in online search to stifle competition and harm consumers. The litigation marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. The suit could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

U.S. Justice Dept. files landmark antitrust case against Google

Most of Google’s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.

The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”

Antitrust cases in the technology industry have to move quickly, he said. Otherwise “we could lose the next wave of innovation.”

The Justice Department isn’t seeking specific changes in Google’s structure or other remedies at this point, but isn’t ruling out seeking additional relief, officials said.

Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. 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.

Google 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.”

The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined the federal government in the lawsuit.

But several other states demurred. The attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah released a statement Monday saying they have not concluded their investigation into Google and would want to consolidate their case with the DOJ’s if they decided to file. “It’s a bipartisan statement,” said spokesman Fabien Levy of the New York State attorney general’s office. “There’s things that still need to be fleshed out, basically,”

President Donald Trump’s administration has long had Google in its sights. One of Trump’s top economic advisers said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.

Google controls about 90% of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.

Most of Google’s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads. Google insists that it holds no special power forcing people to use its free services or preventing them from going elsewhere.

A recent report from a House Judiciary subcommittee, following a year-long investigation into Big Tech’s market dominance, concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed — buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.

The Democratic congressman who led that investigation called Tuesday’s action “long overdue” but said it’s important for the Justice Department to look beyond Google’s search business.

“It is critical that the Justice Department’s lawsuit focuses on Google’s monopolization of search and search advertising, while also targeting the anticompetitive business practices Google is using to leverage this monopoly into other areas, such as maps, browsers, video, and voice assistants,” Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in a statement.

The argument for reining in Google has gathered force as the company stretched far beyond its 1998 roots as a search engine governed by the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s since grown into a diversified goliath with online tentacles that scoop up personal data from billions of people via services ranging from search, video and maps to smartphone software. That data helps feed the advertising machine that has turned Google into a behemoth.

The company owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system. Some critics have singled out YouTube and Android as among Google businesses that should be considered for divestiture.

With only two weeks to Election Day, the Trump Justice Department is taking bold legal action against Google on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement. Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.

The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google’s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago they were investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”

Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas joined the Justice Department lawsuit.

___

AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this report from San Ramon, California.

___

Michael Balsamo And Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

GoogleUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

A criminal trial for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, is to begin in August 2021, following a failed application to strike down immigration-act provisions that he is charged under. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)
Blaine inn owner’s challenge of immigration act fails

Robert Boule’s trial on human-smuggling charges set to begin August 2021

Surrey Little Theatre is located on 184th Street at Fraser Highway. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey Little Theatre, Langley Players look to merge as single company at 200th Street theatre

A ‘really exciting’ development for the volunteer-run theatre companies

RCMP. (File photo: Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media)
Surrey RCMP recover stolen semi-trailer and its $200K of cargo

Police say the cargo was found in separate location than the trailer

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Most Read