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Google faces major antitrust lawsuit over search engine dominance

In a historic case, Alphabet’s Google will be on trial in Washington, accused by the US Department of Justice and state attorneys general of using its dominance in the search engine market for monopolistic practices.

Government position: The US, along with its state partners, alleges that Google illegally suppressed competition. By allocating billions to companies like Apple, Google ensured that its search engine remained the primary choice on most devices and browsers. Filed in 2020, the government’s lawsuit calls these agreements “exclusionary,” accusing Google of restricting competitors’ access to search data and further consolidating its control of the market. Google currently has a 90% market share in US search, according to government calculations. This dominance, according to demand, has stifled innovation and reduced consumer choice.

Google Defense: Google counters that narrative, saying it hasn’t violated antitrust regulations. They argue that their browser agreements were the result of “legitimate competition” rather than any “unlawful exclusion.” Google maintains that these agreements did not prevent competitors from building their search platforms. In addition, Google claims that device and browser manufacturers prefer their search engine to provide users with the “best quality” experience, emphasizing that mobile users have the autonomy to switch search engines if they wish.

Legal framework: It is essential to note that exclusivity agreements are not inherently illegal. Such arrangements usually fly under the regulatory radar unless a dominant company can substantially influence competition. The onus will be on the Department of Justice to demonstrate that Google’s practices have adversely affected search competition. Google will then have the opportunity to argue that its practices are advantageous to consumers.

Potential consequences: Should Google be found guilty, the repercussions could be profound. U.S. and state authorities are not pursuing any financial penalties. Instead, they aim for a court order to stop the alleged anti-competitive activities. This could extend to breaking up Google as a possible remedy or even preventing Google from forging exclusive deals in emerging sectors, including AI.

The case echoes the Justice Department’s 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft over its dominance of the computer market. It concluded with Microsoft maintaining its structural integrity after liquidation.

Presiding over this critical case is U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, known for his role in major antitrust disputes and his recent rulings related to the Capitol storming on January 6, 2021. The trial, which is expected to lasting 10 weeks, may not witness a verdict until 2024.

This article is sourced from and written by AI.

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