Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Justice Department sues Google over digital advertising dominance

Published:Wednesday | January 25, 2023 | 11:50 AM
A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, California, on September 24, 2019. The Justice Department and several states sued Google on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, alleging that its dominance in digital advertising harms competition. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department and eight states filed an antitrust suit against Google on Tuesday, seeking to shatter its alleged monopoly on the entire ecosystem of online advertising as a hurtful burden to advertisers, consumers and even the United States government.

The government alleged in the complaint that Google is looking to “neutralise or eliminate” rivals in the online ad marketplace through acquisitions and to force advertisers to use its products by making it difficult to use competitors' offerings.

It's part of a new, if slow and halting, push by the US to rein in big tech companies that have enjoyed largely unbridled growth in the past decade and a half.

“Monopolies threaten the free and fair markets upon which our economy is based.

They stifle innovation, they hurt producers and workers, and they increase costs for consumers,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference Tuesday.

For 15 years, Garland said, Google has “pursued a course of anti-competitive conduct” that has stalled the rise of rival technologies and manipulated the mechanics of online ad auctions to force advertisers and publishers to use its tools.

In so doing, he added, Google ”engaged in exclusionary conduct” that has “severely weakened,” if not destroyed, competition in the ad tech industry.

The suit, the latest legal action brought by the government against Google, accuses the company of unlawfully monopolising the way ads are served online by excluding competitors. Google's ad manager lets large publishers who have significant direct sales manage their advertisements.

The ad exchange, meanwhile, is a real-time marketplace to buy and sell online display ads.

Garland said Google controls the technology used by most major website publishers to offer advertising space for sale, as well as the largest ad exchange that matches publishers and advertisers together when ad space is sold. The result, he added, is that “website creators earn less and advertisers pay more.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, demands that Google divest itself of the businesses of controlling the technical tools that manage the buying, selling and auctioning of digital display advertising, remaining with search — its core business — and other products and services including YouTube, Gmail and cloud services.

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