On Tuesday the Justice Department unleashed antitrust charges against Google. The Department accuses the internet monolith of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising.
In a lawsuit, filed in Washington DC under the title U.S. v. Google, the Department alleges that Google has used a vast web of business contracts and agreements as a means of hobbling competition.
For instance, Google has paid billions to fellow tech giant Apple to make it the default search engine on iPhones. But the reach of Google’s monopoly is not unique to Apple products. In fact, the DOJ alleges in its suit that about 80% of online searches occur through Google. That, argues the suit, is the result of Google being the default engine across countless mobile carriers and other handset makers.
Now, the DOJ argues that Google has inhibited competition and innovation in the tech sphere through the use of such exclusive contracts.
“For many years,” the suit reads, “Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend it monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising — the cornerstones of its empire.”
The suit is the result of long-brewing tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley. Earlier this year, Congress assembled CEOs from the tech sector’s four largest powers–Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. The tech chiefs were grilled on issues of monopoly power and privacy concerns. And while Democratic and Republican members of the panel emphasized different fears, what brought them together was a shared sense that America’s tech behemoths have become too powerful.
In their reporting, The New York Times points out that political leaders as dissimilar as President Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have criticized the concentration of power in the hands of a few wealthy tech tycoons. That’s because the leaders of the big four control much more than simply their flagship websites. These companies have unparalleled control over the news media, personal data, and the very pillars of the American economy.
Thus, the DOJ’s lawsuit is likely to be just the beginning of a yearslong effort to break up tech monopolies. In fact, about four dozen states and jurisdictions have already conducted similar investigations into Google’s monopoly. They will likely bring their own suits against the company’s ironclad control over online searching and advertising.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr spearheaded the federal complaint, and eleven state attorneys general co-signed the suit.