On Tuesday, a momentous case pitting the US government against Google over the company’s world-dominating search engine opened in a Washington courtroom.
“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google will ever face meaningful competition in search,” said Justice Department lawyer Kenneth Dintzer as the United states government began making its case against the tech titan.
Google will attempt to persuade Judge Amit P. Mehta that the landmark case launched by the Department of Justice is without merit over the course of 10 weeks of testimony involving more than 100 witnesses.
The trial, which is being held in a Washington courthouse, is the largest US antitrust action against a major technology corporation since the same department took on Microsoft more than two decades ago over the dominance of its Windows operating system.
“Even for Washington DC, I think we have the highest concentration of blue suits in any location here today,” Mehta joked, observing the dozens of lawyers assembled in his courtroom.
The government claims that Google unfairly created its dominance in internet search by forming exclusivity relationships with device makers, mobile operators, and other companies, leaving rivals no chance to compete.
Google allegedly buried upstarts before they had a chance to thrive by paying billions of dollars to Apple and others every year to ensure its search engine default status on phones and web browsers.
This resulted in what the government refers to as a “feedback loop” in which Google’s search dominance only got larger and more destructive to competition due to its exclusive access to people that rivals could never equal.
This supremacy has made Google parent Alphabet one of the world’s wealthiest businesses, with search ads accounting for roughly 60% of sales, dwarfing income from other activities such as YouTube or Android phones.
“We will track what Google did to maintain its monopoly… It’s not about what it could have done or should have done, it’s about what they did,” Dintzer told the court.
‘They Want To’
The case’s most prominent accused victims are competing search engines that have yet to earn a major market share versus Google, such as Microsoft’s Bing and DuckDuckGo.
Google remains the world’s most popular search engine, with 90 percent of the market in the United States and around the world, with much of that coming from mobile usage on iPhones and phones running Google-owned Android.
The business will argue that its success is due to the unrivaled quality of its search engine, which has been regarded as a cut above the competition since its inception in 1998 by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
“In sum, people don’t use Google because they have to — they use it because they want to,” said Kent Walker, Google president of global affairs in a blog post.
Mehta’s ruling is expected many months after the roughly three months of expected hearings.
He might dismiss the lawsuit or seek extreme redress, such as the split of Google’s divisions or a restructuring of the company’s operations.
Whatever the conclusion, either side will almost surely appeal the verdict, perhaps prolonging the dispute for years.
Washington’s case against Microsoft, which began in 1998, resulted in a settlement in 2001 when an appeal overturned an order that the corporation be divided up.
The US government filed its case against Google under the Trump administration, and the matter was carried over to President Joe Biden’s administration.
Biden has also made a point of opposing tech behemoths and appointing well-known tech critics to prominent positions, but with little to show for it.
Biden’s Justice Department started a separate action against Google in January involving its advertising business, which could go to trial next year.
In addition, the business is facing a slew of lawsuits from US states accusing it of abusing monopolies in ad tech and stifling competition in its Google Play app store.