Google faces antitrust challenge from the US Justice Department

This would be the biggest legal challenge the US tech giant will be facing since its three antitrust hearings by European Union Regulators
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc.

When we say “Google it” we don’t necessarily mean to use Google to find out about it. However, to many, that’s the only option. While this monopoly might seem profitable to a few, it has come back to bite Google. The United States government’s Justice Department and 11 states have filed a suit against Google for the “illegal monopoly” of the search engine market. This is quite possible the largest anti-trust hearing the giant. In the past few years, Google has come under the radar of European Union Regulators for breaking anti-trust laws. Three violations have given Google a total bill of $9.3 billion dollars. The US suit might go beyond it.

The US Justice Department will focus on the search and search-focused advertising rather than the company’s larger ad setup. To explain simply, every android comes with Google’s default apps, and the Google search bar. The problem here is that while there are alternatives, Google has allegedly paid mobile manufacturers and network operators to use Google’s software bundle. What this creates is a monopoly of the market, as everyone who uses an android phone has to use Google search bar. The complaint further alleges that Google has paid browser software makers to make sure that Google remains their default search engines, as rarely few of them change it. Even though there are privacy-friendly search engines such as Duck Duck Go, Google allegedly maintains the control.

It doesn’t stop there. EU regulators and the US Justice Department had previously and currently accuse Google of banning brands that advertise with their platform from taking their services to anyone else. Barricading the market, controlling the market via illegal means, and illegally forcing out competitors are a few of the complaints against the tech giant.

Representational Image
Representational Image

Google’s official reply is interesting. “This lawsuit claims that Americans aren’t sophisticated enough to do this [changing the default search engine],” says a statement from the tech giant. Google admits that they pay to promote their services, but “like a cereal brand might pay a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level.” Google cites the example of how Apple comes with Safari and Microsoft comes with Bing, but forgets to add that Bing and Safari don’t have to pay to be part of their company’s product or that the natural urge of their parent company is to promote their products. In both cases, there isn’t a need to crush competition.

In one aspect, Google is correct: “The bigger point is that people don’t use Google because they have to, they use it because they choose to.” The running joke was that Internet Explorer’s entire purpose was to download Chrome. God rest its soul. The point is that Google has its problems — the waves of privacy issues in Android and its various skins aren’t going anywhere — but people still choose it. The problem is determining whether this choice is conditioned, coerced, or deliberate.

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