Google’s Antitrust Trial Gets Underway In Washington



Google and the Justice Department square off Tuesday in opening arguments for the biggest antitrust trial in more than two decades, kicking off a case with major implications for the search giant and the future of antitrust law, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The nonjury trial, scheduled to go through mid-November, will be decided by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who could order a breakup or changes to the way Google promotes its search engine.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has alleged Google’s agreements with companies including Apple and Samsung to make its search engine the default option on web browsers and mobile phones illegally helped maintain a monopoly in that market. Google has said it competes fairly for the contracts, and users can easily switch away from defaults.

The trial in Washington will be closely watched by lawmakers and policy experts who have pushed for stricter policing of U.S. tech giants. The DOJ hasn’t brought an antimonopoly case to trial since it successfully sued Microsoft in 1998 for using its dominance in personal computer software to squash upstart web browsers.

The Justice Department, Google and a group of state attorneys general also suing the company are all expected to make opening arguments on Tuesday. The state AGs sued Google for allegedly favoring its own search engine when building tools placing ads across multiple services, an accusation Google has also fought.

Politico reported that the Biden administration’s push to check the power of the tech giants gets its first big test Tuesday in a Washington courtroom where the Department of Justice will kick off a case designed to curb Google’s dominance in online search.

The trial against the $1.7 trillion company will be “the most significant U.S. monopoly case in a generation,” said Bill Baer, a fellow with the Brookings Institution and former DOJ antitrust head under President Barack Obama.

According to Politico, the DOJ’s suit against Google claims the company has become the overwhelmingly most-used search engine not because of a superior product but because it illegally uses its money to box out its competitors.

The case centers on a series of revenue-sharing agreements, worth tens of billions of dollars annually, that Google has with Apple, Mozilla, Samsung, and others to be the default search engine on web browsers and mobile phones, as well as its control of the ads that populate search results. Google does not disclose the exact value of the deals. The DOJ says these contracts have hindered the ability of rivals to compete and deprived customers of the benefits of high quality, innovative services that only competition can foster.

According to some estimates, including those cited in the DOJ’s lawsuit, Google controls about 90 percent of the search engine market in the U.S. and globally.

ArsTechnica reported that DC-based U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta will hear opening arguments in a 10-week monopoly trial that could disrupt Google’s search business and redefine how the U.S. enforces antitrust law in the tech industry.

“Google’s anticompetitive conduct harms consumers – even those who prefer its search engine – because Google has not innovated as it would have with competitive pressure,” the DOJ wrote in a pre-trial brief filed on Friday.

According to ArsTechnica, this trial will be “the federal government’s first monopoly trial of the modern era,” (the New York Times reported). For officials, the trial marks a shift away from opposing anti-competitive tech mergers and acquisitions – which attempt to stop tech giants from getting even bigger in desirable markets. Starting with this trial, officials will now begin scrutinizing more closely than ever before how tech giants got so big in the first place.

It seems to me that this trial – which is to last for ten weeks – should fill up news articles as new parts of the case are reported on. That said, I suspect that you won’t find anything about this case posted on Google’s search engine.