Categories: Info Tech

US Takes On Google In Landmark Antitrust Trial

 

A landmark case pitting the US government against Google over the dominance of the company’s world-dominating search engine began in a Washington courtroom on Tuesday.

“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google will ever face meaningful competition in search,” said Justice Department lawyer Kenneth Dintzer as the United states government began making its case against the tech titan.

Over the course of 10 weeks of testimony involving more than 100 witnesses, Google will try to persuade Judge Amit P. Mehta that the landmark case brought by the Department of Justice is without merit.

Held in a Washington courtroom, the trial is the biggest US antitrust case against a big tech company since the same department took on Microsoft more than two decades ago over the dominance of its Windows operating system.

“Even for Washington DC, I think we have the highest concentration of blue suits in any location here today,” Mehta joked, observing the dozens of lawyers assembled in his courtroom.

READ ALSO: From Chargers To Children’s Data: How The EU Reined In Big Tech

The Google case centers on the government’s contention that the tech titan unfairly forged its domination of online search by forging exclusivity contracts with device makers, mobile operators and other companies that left rivals no chance to compete.

Through these payments of billions of dollars every year to Apple and others, Google secured its search engine default status on phones and web browsers, allegedly burying upstarts before they had a chance to grow.

This created what the government calls a “feedback loop” in which Google’s dominance of search only grew bigger and more damaging to competition because of its monopoly access to users that rivals could never match.

That dominance has made Google parent Alphabet one of the world’s richest companies, with search ads generating nearly 60 percent of the company’s revenue, dwarfing income from other activities such as YouTube or Android phones.

“We will track what Google did to maintain its monopoly… It’s not about what it could have done or should have done, it’s about what they did,” Dintzer told the court.

 ‘They Want To’ 

The biggest alleged victims in the case are rival search engines that have yet to eke out a meaningful market share against Google, like Microsoft’s Bing and DuckDuckGo.

Google remains the world’s go-to search engine, capturing 90 percent of the market in the United States and across the globe, much of which comes through mobile usage on iPhones and phones running on Google-owned Android.

The company will contend that its success is due to the unbeatable quality of its search engine that has been judged a cut above the rest since its launch in 1998 by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

“In sum, people don’t use Google because they have to — they use it because they want to,” said Kent Walker, Google president of global affairs in a blog post.

Mehta’s ruling is expected many months after the roughly three months of expected hearings.

He could dismiss the case or order drastic remedial action such as a breakup of Google’s businesses or a revamp of the way it operates.

Whatever the outcome, the ruling will almost certainly be appealed by either side, potentially dragging the case on for years.

Launched in 1998, Washington’s case against Microsoft ended in a settlement in 2001 after an appeal reversed an order that the company be split up.

The US government launched its case against Google during the Trump administration and the suit carried over in the transition to President Joe Biden.

Biden has also made a point of challenging tech giants and nominated well known tech critics to key posts, but with little yet to show for it.

In January, Biden’s Department of Justice launched a separate case against Google involving its advertising business and this could go to trial next year.

The company also faces various lawsuits from US states that accuse it of abusing monopolies in ad tech and for blocking competition in its Google Play app store.

AFP

Emmanuel Egobiambu

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