Google Hit With Third Anti-Trust Lawsuit – Targets Search “Manipulation”

Google seems to be on the receiving end of a third anti-trust lawsuit. This one is targeting how the search engine giant displays their products.

The legal hits just keep on coming for Google. The first lawsuit dropped back in October when the US Justice Department filed an anti-trust lawsuit claiming that the contracts they have with various organizations is anti-competitive.

Then, just yesterday, various state attorneys general said that they were separately filing a lawsuit. When that news broke, we were left wondering if there are other lawsuits in the woodwork that are going to hit the news. It turns out, we didn’t have to wait very long at all.

A report on The Verge says a third lawsuit has been filed against Google. Once again, it is on anti-trust grounds. It is also being filed by a coalition of state attorneys general. At issue is how Google displays their products compared to others:

A coalition of 38 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google Thursday focusing on the design of the tech giant’s search engine. It’s the third major antitrust lawsuit filed against the search giant this year.

Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser and Nebraska’s Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson led the bipartisan group of states’ suit accusing Google of anticompetitive behavior like designing its search engine in a way that leverages the company’s own products over those of its competitors.

“Google sits at the crossroads of so many areas of our digital economy and has used its dominance to illegally squash competitors, monitor nearly every aspect of our digital lives, and profit to the tune of billions,” New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Thursday.

According to a press release from the New York attorney general’s office, the states are asking the court to stop Google’s illegal conduct and “restore a competitive marketplace.” They are also seeking to “counter any advantages that Google gained as a result of its anticompetitive conduct,” including possible divestitures.

Politico, for its part, says that the suit is calling for a breakup of Google:

More than 30 states filed an antitrust suit against Google on Thursday that demands a breakup of the search giant, accusing it of abusing its control over online search to squeeze out competitors and make inroads into new markets such as home speakers.

The news comes as details emerge about the second anti-trust lawsuit filed against Google. All we knew yesterday was that the suit was in the process of being filed. Now, we know what it’s all about. From CNBC:

The lawsuit claims Google unlawfully acquired, attempted to acquire, or maintained a monopoly in several steps of the online ad market including both buy and sell sides. It also alleges Google has engaged in unlawful tying arrangements between its ad products so publishers had to use another Google tool if they chose to operate on its ad exchange.

The lawsuit alleges that Google’s 2008 acquisition of ad tech company DoubleClick marked a “fundamental change” where the company began to “exert leverage” as a middleman to extract payments from all steps of the complex online ad-buying process.

The complaint also claims Google and Facebook, which it names a “co-conspirator,” harmed competition through an unlawful agreement to rig auctions and fix prices. According to the complaint, when Facebook announced in 2017 plans to compete with Google in the ad tech space, the search giant allegedly cut a deal to stem the competition. As part of the alleged arrangement, Google would grant Facebook certain advantages in auctions it runs for mobile app advertising inventory.

A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the lawsuit’s claim of an unlawful auction rigging agreement with Facebook is not accurate. Facebook Audience Network is involved in exchanges outside of Google’s, such as Fyber, MoPub (Twitter’s ad exchange), Applovin MAX and Ironsource, the spokesperson said, adding that its Open Bidding program was designed to work with a variety of ad networks and exchanges.

If an antitrust lawsuit is going to be filed against a search engine like Google, targeting the advertising ecosystem is probably a good angle. Think about what kind of advertising ad networks there are out there. There is, of course, Google Adsense. After that, it’s, er, Taboola maybe. After that, it becomes a struggle to name any that isn’t technically a specialty network. Facebook, sure, has its own advertising built into its platform.

It’ll be interesting to see how these lawsuits develop over time. After all, they seem to attack Google in three different ways. Of the three we see here, the one talking about the ad network one is probably the most promising of the three. Of course, you never know how things shake up with things like this. We’ve been surprised before and are totally open to being surprised again.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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