Google and the DOJ clash over search dominance

Google is paying ‘billions’ to other companies to keep Google Search as the default option on phones, in browsers and elsewhere, maintaining illegal dominance in the search market, the Justice Department told a court on Thursday. the tribunal.

Drive the news: Lawyers for Google and the Department of Justice spoke Thursday before federal judge Amit Mehta during a hearing in which both sides set out the relevant facts in the DOJ’s 2020 antitrust lawsuit against the giant. the research.

  • The hearing was a sort of tutorial with the aim of educating the judge on the various technological aspects of Google’s business.

why is it important: Antitrust cases are a long ordeal, and Thursday’s hearing marked a turning point for both sides as they prepare for a likely trial next year, offering a glimpse of the arguments they are likely to make to be worth.

Backtrack: The lawsuit, a landmark showdown that is being closely watched by the tech industry and regulators around the world, was filed at the end of the Trump administration in October 2020 and has continued under President Biden.

What they say : The Justice Department, along with state attorneys general pursuing a parallel lawsuit, say Google is pursuing default agreements because it knows that switching to another search engine involves too much “friction” for a user and that the people end up staying with Google.

  • The DOJ didn’t say how much Google is spending on these deals, but attorney Kenneth Dintzer described it as “billions.”
  • “Flaws matter a lot,” Dintzer said. “If they don’t matter, then these payments don’t make sense.”
  • The plaintiffs also alleged that Google was unfairly reducing traffic to sites such as Kayak, and Yelp by stuffing search pages with answer boxes and Google-sponsored results, which pushes search results higher. those sites very far down the page where users are not likely to scroll.

The other side: Google lawyer John Schmidtlein argued that people are free to use any search engine on Android and Apple phones, where Google is the default search engine, and that the change is not difficult. Businesses also choose to contract with Google because it helps their business, he said.

  • Google’s default agreements haven’t stopped users from accessing other search engines like Microsoft’s Bing, he said, and Google has a lot of competition: “Google has to compete relentlessly on the research and on the advertising side, otherwise people will take their money elsewhere.”
  • “People have somehow found a way to overcome the so-called tyranny of a default,” he said.

And after: A full trial is expected to begin next year, but some participants expect a summary judgment dealing with some of the DOJ’s allegations to arrive before the end of this year.

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