The Department of Justice under the administration of President Donald J Trump is taking on Big Tech. The DOJ filed a lawsuit against Google for violating antitrust laws, and the case could have a ripple effect across the tech world. Silicon Valley is watching the case closely, anxious to see the outcome.
An Investigation Leads to a Lawsuit
The Department of Justice began it’s probe into Google’s business practices last summer, as they took a broad look into tech giants across Silicon Valley. The effort was described by officials as an attempt to explore, “widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.”
By September of 2019, the DOJ was asking for sensitive documents from Google and it looked as though an investigation was zeroing in on them.
Washington Post reports, “Initially, DOJ officials signaled an interest in probing the company’s advertising business, which contributed the lion’s share of the company’s total $162 billion in 2019 revenue. Quickly, though, the probe expanded to touch on a wider array of issues in response to a flurry of complaints from rival companies — from news publishers to travel review websites — that say Google wields its powerful search engine in myriad ways to entrench its dominance.
At times, the federal probe has proven acrimonious. The DOJ and Google have warred over the company’s apparent unwillingness to turn over documents that federal investigators describe as critical to their work. Within DOJ, meanwhile, government lawyers have sparred among themselves over the timeline for bringing a case particularly in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Dozens of agency staff signaled this summer they did not feel they were ready to bring charges against Google, but Attorney General William P. Barr ultimately overruled them — and set the Justice Department on a course to file this month.”
Details of the Lawsuit
The landmark lawsuit marks the largest antitrust suit against a big tech company in over 20 years. Per CNN, “‘The most important tech industry monopolization case before this one was United States v. Microsoft in 1998,’ William Kovacic, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, told CNN Business before the suit was announced. During that case, the US government alleged Microsoft broke the law by bundling its browser, Internet Explorer, with every copy of Windows — to the detriment of competition among browser makers. After several years of litigation, Microsoft and the government reached a settlement that imposed new limits on Microsoft’s software business.”
The lawsuit is expected to detail the DOJ’s allegations that Google has stifled competition and choked competitor growth to maintain it’s powerful position in the marketplace for online searches.
11 states with Republican attorneys general will be joining the lawsuit – Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas – and other states may choose to join.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Congressional report that accuses tech giants Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook of monopolizing business segments and abusing their power to throttle competition.
Trump Administration Has Been Taking Aim
It’s unsurprising that Trump’s DOJ is taking on Big Tech. It’s more surprising that it’s taken so long. According to reports, people close to the investigation have been warring over the timeline of the investigation’s conclusion, with outside pressure to wrap it up before Election Day next month.
The President has been outspoken against Big Tech in Silicon Valley, often accusing the tech giants that comprise the Silicon Valley ether-sphere of having anti-American interests and flouting the laws to line their own pockets. For their part, the big tech companies have remained aloof from Trump’s accusations.
Per CNN, “A federal antitrust lawsuit marks the start, not the end, of the government’s gambit against Google. It could take years for a federal court to resolve whether the company violated the country’s competition laws and, if so, what punishments it should may face.” The outcome could have broad implications for other tech companies who are watching and waiting. Google has not made a statement yet.