On October 20, local time, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the technology company of illegally using its market monopoly to suppress competitors.
At the same time, around Google’s core Internet search business and its strong strength in the field of digital advertising, various states have also launched investigations into Google.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest challenges to the monopoly of technology giants in decades, but the timing of the filing of this lawsuit will inevitably make the outside world suspect that there are political factors behind it.
U.S. Department of Justice files antitrust lawsuit against Google, Google may be forced to split
The U.S. Department of Justice and 11 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on October 20, accusing the technology giant of illegally maintaining a monopoly in Internet search and digital advertising. The states participating in the complaint include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas. The attorneys general of these states are Republicans.
This anticipated lawsuit is the largest antitrust case since the U.S. Department of Justice sued Microsoft for monopolizing the software market in 1998. The lawsuit originated from Google and three other technology giants-Apple, Amazon and Facebook lasting for a year. Investigation.
Analysis believes that the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice may lead to Google being split. With reference to past experience, although Microsoft was able to preserve it after reaching a settlement with the Department of Justice, the US government’s antitrust lawsuit against AT&T in 1974 eventually led to the split of the technology giant into a series of companies.
This lawsuit accuses Google of maintaining its monopoly on Internet search and search advertising through illegal actions. The indictment stated: “If the court does not make a ruling, Google will continue to implement its anti-competitive strategy, weaken the competitive process, reduce consumer choice, and stifle innovation.”
At present, nearly 90% of general search engine queries in the United States use Google, while on mobile devices, the proportion is as high as 95%. U.S. Attorney General William Barr stated that investigators found that Google did not compete on the quality of search results, but succeeded by paying mobile phone manufacturers and other companies. “The end result is that no one can challenge Google in Dominance in search and search advertising.”
Google’s chief legal officer: using Google is the people’s choice, the lawsuit has “serious flaws”
In response, Google’s chief legal officer Kent Volcker issued a statement saying that the lawsuit had “serious flaws.” “People use Google because they choose to do it, not because they are forced to do it, or because they can’t find other alternatives.” He said, “This lawsuit will not help consumers in any way. On the contrary, This will artificially support lower-quality alternative search options, increase prices, and make it more difficult for people to obtain the search services they want to use.”
Whether to engage in anti-competitive behavior is the key point of the technical analysis of this case
Analyzing this antitrust case from a technical perspective, the key is to clarify whether Google is engaged in so-called “anti-competitive behavior”?
The U.S. Department of Justice has alleged that Google has illegally maintained its monopoly in the search field by signing exclusive contracts with mobile phone manufacturers, wireless operators, and web browsers and other distributors, using Google as the default search engine.
According to the “Wall Street Journal” report, like other regulators around the world, the US Department of Justice is paying attention to some Google transactions, such as the company paying tens of billions of dollars to Apple to become the default search engine for the Safari browser on the iPhone.
Critics believe that this arrangement prevents search engines such as Bing from obtaining sufficient search query data and prevents these competitors from improving their competitiveness.
In addition, there are also views that Google’s search function is biased towards its own business. For example, for questions such as “When is the next flight to Boston?” Google provides the answer to the flight time of its own service, rather than sending users a link to another website.
As the rise of smartphones has narrowed the available space for displaying search results, these views have become more distinct. Some of Google’s competitors say this approach pushes their search results to “a position where you need to turn the page to see.”
Google’s response to these criticisms is that consumers use Google because of their own choice, rather than being forced or lacking alternative options.
“Our success is based on providing the best search results. If we fail to do so, users will Turn to competitors quickly and easily.” The company also said that its business involves many highly competitive industries in which products are free or prices are falling, while products are constantly improving. As for the criticism that the search function is biased towards its own business, Google believes that this is for the convenience of users.
Another key question is whether Google’s dominant position in the advertising field will harm consumers’ interests? Google and its supporters said that Google’s dominance in advertising has lowered advertising prices, allowing it to provide consumers with free services.
However, antitrust experts obviously don’t think so. They say that many companies will eventually have to charge consumers higher prices for goods and services, higher than what they should be when “the online advertising market is more competitive.”
They also claim that consumers are forced to provide these products with more data about their usage habits, interests, location, etc., and the data provided is above the level required for fair exchange. In addition, consumers are missing out on various innovative products that should have spawned in a more competitive market.
Has been repeatedly accused of “suppressing conservatives” or litigation arises because of this?
U.S. Attorney General William Barr stated that this lawsuit against Google is a major milestone for the Department of Justice and the American people. “The lawsuit strikes at the core of Google’s control of the Internet in order to be subject to illegality. Millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs of monopolists.” Barr specifically mentioned that the lawsuit filed in the federal court in Washington has nothing to do with conservatives’ concerns about content management and censorship on online platforms.
The outside world has noticed that in recent years, US President Trump and his Republican allies have been accusing Google and other online platforms of “suppressing conservative voices.” In May of this year, Trump signed an executive order aimed at a law that protects social media companies from liability compensation lawsuits. The Department of Justice has introduced a bill to amend this law in September.
In recent years, Google has been accused of “discriminatory conservatives”. According to the “Wall Street Journal” report, the previous dismissal of a Republican who supported Trump by Google caused an uproar in Silicon Valley. As for the reason why he lost his job, both sides hold different opinions-the employee insisted that it was because of his “outspoken conservative identity”, while Google listed him a number of “crimes”, including improper downloading of company information and abuse of remote Access to software systems, etc.
“Historically, Google has a lot of bullying behaviors in this company.” The fired employee “broke the news”, “There is a major’political perspective’ here, and their attitude towards the (left and right) factions. It’s totally different.”
Not only that, but Google is also widely attacked by conservative groups because of the “one-sided” of its political donations. According to survey data from the US think tank “Responsive Politics Center”, during the 2018 US midterm elections, about 95% of the funds donated by Google employees to candidates went to Democrats.
Some engineers who have worked at Google privately complained that the political correctness movement initiated by the left has been overcorrected at Google, resulting in some conservatives who “dare not talk nonsense”. They are openly talking about their career development. The occasion simply did not dare to express one’s own views, which made the political correctness in Silicon Valley more popular.
Trump himself has repeatedly accused Google of bias against him. He once tweeted that when searching for “Trump News” on Google, the search results only showed reports from “fake news media,” especially CNN. Trump criticized that the voices of the Republicans and conservatives were buried by Google. At that time, he accused Google of breaking the law, which caused widespread concern.
The New York Times reported in September that Barr responded to Trump’s criticisms on some occasions and stated that antitrust laws can be used to “change Google’s restrictions on conservative voices.” The newspaper quoted people familiar with the matter as saying that the US Department of Justice already had strong antitrust evidence.
However, the Trump administration clearly does not want the outside world to link the antitrust lawsuit with ideology. Barr also quickly issued a statement stating that the October 20 lawsuit was not related to the accusations of “suppression of conservatives”. At least on the surface, the Justice Department uses standard antitrust grounds.
However, as the US election enters the sprint stage, all actions of the Trump administration will face questions about whether there are political motives. According to Reuters analysis, the timing of the filing of the lawsuit coincides with the eve of the U.S. presidential election, which can be regarded as a political gesture that shows that Trump is fulfilling his previous promises to his supporters to pursue certain companies for allegedly “strangling” “Conservative voice”.