A massive antitrust trial opens against Google and its parent company Alphabet Tuesday. The trial, brought by the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that the tech giant used its power to squash any competition, illegally making itself the default search engine on many apps and services.
Google has denied the allegations against it, and maintains that it succeeds because it’s the best option, not because of a lack of competition.
The case has the power to reshape the tech industry. Google’s is the first antitrust suit brought against a Big Tech company in 25 years — last time, Justice Department officials targeted Microsoft.• 1 In the years since, tech companies have developed an even firmer grip on their users, and The New York Times noted that the case has the potential to dismantle or slow down tech companies. “The Google trial is a big test for the government’s entire antitrust agenda because its theory of monopolization is very much in play with many big tech companies,” Rebecca Allensworth, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s law school, told the Times.• 2
This case is bipartisan — a break from antitrust as a traditionally left-wing cause, The Atlantic notes.• 3 The suit was filed while former U.S. President Donald Trump was in office, and comes as politicians from across the political spectrum want to reel in Big Tech. Ninety percent of Americans use Google as their search engine of choice, and the DOJ alleges it is because Google has thrown billions of dollars at companies like Verizon and Apple to be a default option. The U.S. now wants to interrogate that dominance more broadly: Fourteen states joined the initial Oct. 2020 lawsuit against Google, and 35 states, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and Washington, D.C., joined a Dec. 2020 case. Those two suits have been combined for this trial.• 4
The Atlantic, U.S. v. Google
To date, Google has avoided federal accountability for its wide reach over the tech industry. Some are applauding the DOJ’s attempt to rein it in: Sacha Haworth, director of The Tech Oversight Project, said that “the reason why the company operates this way is because they are fundamentally unaccountable, especially when it comes to their bottom line,” and added there’s now an opportunity to “remake the internet and create more choices for people everywhere.”• 5