Will there be accountability? Will there be justice? Will there be reform?
The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising, in the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.
In a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the agency accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using several exclusive business contracts and agreements to lock out competition.
Such contracts include Google’s payment of billions of dollars to Apple to place the Google search engine as the default for iPhones. By using contracts to maintain its monopoly, the suit says, competition and innovation has suffered.
For years, the Monster of Mountain View has grown its power, unchecked, except by the European Union. Now, the United States federal government has belatedly shown up with its own challenge.
Google’s response was to call the suit “flawed” and to claim “it wouldn’t help consumers”.
Americans aren’t consumers, Google. We’re people.
And we deserve markets that are fair, not rigged.
There is no disputing that Google is a near-monopoly in the search and advertising space. That makes this lawsuit and its claims necessary and valid.
There is nothing “flawed” about this action except that Attorney General William Barr may have overridden career attorneys who wanted more time to bring their case. But it was already long overdue, so it’s understandable that Barr wanted it filed before he stepped down.
The next administration could terminate the case. But they shouldn’t.
It is a fact that Google pays off pretty much everybody to keep its search engine as the default in rival browsers and operating systems.
Google pays Apple to have its search engine be the default in Safari and Mobile Safari. It pays Mozilla to have Google be the default in Firefox. Google is also the default search engine in Opera and a host of other browsers. (Naturally, Google Search is also the default in Google’s own Chrome browser).
In fact, the only major browser that uses a different default nowadays is Microsoft’s Edge, which ironically is built on top of Google’s Chromium platform, but uses Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) as its default, instead of Google.
Imagine if iOS’ default search engine was Bing or DuckDuckGo.
Defaults matter. Google knows this. It’s why they shell out big bucks to maintain their dominant position. That’s anticompetitive behavior. For too long, Google has just gotten away with this.
But hopefully, it won’t after this case has run its course.
Google has gotten too big. The company should be disciplined and broken up to ensure it doesn’t become even more monopolistic and abusive.