On Tuesday, the Biden administration’s efforts to rein in tech behemoths will be put to the test when the Department of Justice launches a case against Google to limit the company’s monopoly on web search.
Experts agree that the trial against the $1.7 trillion firm will be “the most significant U.S. monopoly case in a generation,” according to Bill Baer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and former chief of the DOJ’s antitrust division under President Obama.
The Department of Justice is suing Google, claiming that it has become the dominant search engine not due to a superior product but rather by illegally using its financial resources to exclude rivals.
It could have far-reaching repercussions for the government’s worries that modern firms are using their money and power to construct new sorts of monopolies at the expense of competitors and customers, with further federal probes into Amazon, Apple, Ticketmaster, and others on the horizon.
As the “attack dog” attorney President Joe Biden put in charge of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, Jonathan Kanter has a lot riding on this trial. The case was first launched under President Donald Trump. The Obama administration passed on suing Google in 2013 after considering evidence that the company was becoming a digital juggernaut, and the DOJ hopes to succeed where the Obama administration failed.
Google’s dominance as the default search engine on online browsers and mobile phones, as well as its control over the advertisements that populate search results, are at the heart of the lawsuit, which is valued at tens of billions of dollars yearly for Google and its partners. Google does not share details about the size of these agreements. The Department of Justice claims that these contracts have prevented competitors from competing and have denied customers the high-quality, cutting-edge services that can only come from healthy market competition.
Some reports, including the Department of Justice’s lawsuit, claim that Google has a monopoly on search engine services in the United States and around the world.
In the event of a legal defeat, Google may be forced to restructure its operations or even sell off portions of the corporation. It would also unnerve Google’s rivals in the tech industry, who are subject to their own probes and litigation.
The Biden administration might reevaluate its legal stance in other pending technological lawsuits in the event of a loss. Even though law enforcers probably wouldn’t back off entirely, they might be more cautious.
“How it goes has significance for how U.S. courts and enforcers will treat behaviour by dominant companies that entrenches their monopoly power,” Baer said.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is anticipated to claim in court documents that Google’s business decisions have harmed internet users by limiting their options. If, for instance, the market for search engines were more competitive, then shoppers would be able to choose from a broader range of privacy safeguards. DuckDuckGo is a long-standing competitor to Google that emphasises user privacy by not using user data to target advertisements.
In court documents, Google claims that its supplier and platform agreements are not exclusive and that users can easily switch to using different search engines, such Microsoft’s Bing. It claims it is able to secure such contracts through intense competition and a superior offering.
The Department of Justice and Microsoft both declined to comment in the lead-up to the trial.
Obama selected U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in 2014, and he will preside over the case, which will be determined without a jury trial.
The road to a conclusion is long.
Top executives from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others will testify over the next eight to ten weeks, debating whether Google is an aggrieved innovator being punished for its success or has intentionally stifled competition for its own financial gain, regarding the benefits and drawbacks of Google’s outsized role in the internet.
However, a victor will not be announced for several years. The primary question at hand in the trial that begins on Tuesday is whether or not Google broke the law; a decision from Mehta is not expected until the spring. If a judge rules against Google, a new trial would be needed to decide damages. After that, there may be years more of litigation if the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.
Around the same time, in 2024, Google will go to court again to defend its internet advertising business from a challenge by the Department of Justice. The DOJ is looking into whether Google’s dominant mapping business broke antitrust laws.