The U.S. Justice Department sued Google for antitrust violations on Tuesday, alleging the company abused its dominance in online search and advertising to suppress competition.
The lawsuit comes after months of ongoing investigations into Google and other large tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Amazon. CBC News notes that the lawsuit is the U.S. government’s most significant move to protect competition since the famous case against Microsoft over Internet Explorer in 2001.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen explained the antitrust complaint, saying that it accuses Google of maintaining “monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
Filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., the suit alleges that Google uses money collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google remains the default search engine on browsers. Currently, Google controls about 90 percent of global web searches. The company also has a history of using its products to push consumers into other products it controls. For example, many Google services like Gmail and Search show pop-ups recommending users switch to Google’s Chrome web browser, promising better performance and faster speeds.
This won’t be the first time that Google battles antitrust allegations. Over the last few years, the company has faced large fines from regulators in the E.U. for its AdSense policy, software bundling in Android and for manipulating shopping results in Search. CBC News says that some critics argue the fines didn’t go far enough and that only structural changes will alter the company’s conduct.
Google has already fired back at the Justice Department in a blog post. The company called the lawsuit “deeply flawed” and said that “people use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
There’s also a question of how the lawsuit will play out given the current political climate in the U.S., as well as the upcoming election. The Trump administration and Republicans have long called for action against tech giants. In the case of Google, Trump and others have made unfounded claims that Google favours left-leaning viewpoints in Search. Likewise, it’s unclear how the lawsuit would change if a Joe Biden administration were to take power next year.
The states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas will all join the lawsuit.