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Anticompetitive and exclusionary: DOJ vs Google

Paul Brislen, Editor. 21 October 2020, 7:28 am

The US Department of Justice has filed charges against search engine giant Google, alleging the company has unlawfully maintained "monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices".

With shades of the DOJ vs Microsoft case of 1998, the action centres around whether Google has a monopoly on search capability and whether it abuses that position of power.

"Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth," says US Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen in the New Zealand Herald. "It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition."

When the DOJ took on Microsoft more than 20 years ago the case centred around Microsoft's inclusion of its web browser Internet Explorer as part of its operating system. The case was finally settled in 2001, ratified in 2004 and expired in 2007 and resulted in very little change in the way Microsoft worked - the suspicion is that this case also has little hope of changing anything about the way Google operates.

The DOJ is not calling for any specific remedies at this point - there is no call to break Alphabet up or to change the way Google itself operates. That may change as the case progresses, but for now this is widely seen more as a political move than a regulatory one.

US President Donald Trump has long accused Google of bias, claiming it promotes liberal content over conservative. Coming as it does only two weeks out from the presidential election, this show of strength might have more to do with vote winning than anything else - something that may play to Google's advantage if the election does not go Trump's way.


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