Google It: The Internet's Gatekeeper Goes on Trial
September 12, 2023
2 min 31 sec read
Remember 2020? There was a pandemic and the final weeks of a controversial president's term in office, along with assorted other drama, mayhem, and, well . . . you get the picture.
That's also when Uncle Sam (the Justice Department) accused Google, the Internet giant, of playing dirty games to make itself the undisputed heavyweight champion of the online world. Among the accusations was a claim that Google used default agreements with Apple and its associates to become the top dog of the Internet search game.
Wait, do companies resort to such tactics? Let us remind you of the Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit in 1998 when the U.S. Government accused Microsoft of trying to create a monopoly.
So here's the deal. Google's got a stranglehold on over 90% of U.S. search queries, including on mobile devices, along with any other way you can search. Heck, let's just say they've got it covered from every conceivable angle, going so far as to pay Apple a cool $18 billion annually to be their search BFF on iOS. Sounds like a plan, right?
As we mentioned at the onset of this exciting saga, Uncle Sam isn't happy, and if Uncle Sam isn't happy, nobody's happy.
Google's defense is that they are "just playing the game" by engaging in business practices that are common throughout the business world. Paying to have their app as a default on devices is no different, say, than a manufacturer paying to have its potato chips at eye level on the shelves in the grocery store.
Google argues you can always switch to Bing or anybody else trying their hand at the search engine game if you aren't happy with them, but they insist users don't switch because Google happens to be the search engine of choice. They're that confident.
So there's the trial, which begins today, September 12th. Bet you wish you had tickets to the show.
Here's how it's likely to unfold.
Presiding over this extravagant affair will be U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, appointed in 2014 by the Obama administration. There will be no jury. According to a CNBC report, the key focus will be on two kinds of agreements Google makes to browser makers like Apple
Bank of America has weighed in (because they want to) and given us four potential outcomes of this legal fest. First, Google could win the case (yay, Google); second, the court could ban default search engines altogether; third, it could ban Google and allow others; and last but not least, it could open a bidding war on search engines by region or platform.
The judge lightened the load for Google by tossing out three claims regarding how Google manages its Android operating system, its Assistant Service, and how it cultivates its glowing relationship with phone manufacturers. He also threw out a claim that Google hurt competitors by making sure its products got pushed to the head of the class in search results.
Oh, and just last week, Alphabet, Google's holding company, and a bunch of state attorneys wrapped up an antitrust case involving Google's mobile app store.
But hold on, the party isn't over. Google is pointing its gigantic finger at Jonathan Kanter, the Justice Department's antitrust chief, claiming he's biased because of his past relationship on the buddy train with Microsoft, News Corp, and Yelp, and, of course, the accusation that Google's been playing a little game of hide-and-seek with chat messages.
There's more, though. Google is facing yet another hot date with the DOJ regarding its alleged monopoly (a real-life version of the popular game) as Kings of the Digital World. When it comes to keeping up the the action, all you have to do is "Google It."
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