Google defends Meta deal and ad empire against antitrust threat from US states

A 2018 ad pact between Alphabet Inc’s Google and Meta Platforms Inc doesn’t violate antitrust law because it doesn’t stop Facebook from using rival ad exchanges, Google’s attorney told federal judge .

Texas and a slew of other US states have sued Google over the deal, dubbed Jedi Blue, and other anti-competitive behavior they say allowed the search giant to monopolize the tech market to buy , sell and manage online advertising.

Google and Meta, which is not a defendant in the case, have defended the deal and denied any wrongdoing.

Photo: Reuters

“There is nothing illegal about the written agreement itself,” Google attorney Eric Mahr said Wednesday during a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

The deal broadened competition because it allows Facebook to bid on ads sold through Google’s ad exchange on behalf of websites or mobile apps within its Facebook Audience Network, a- he declared.

However, Ashley Keller, an attorney representing Texas, said Google made the deal to give Meta perks on the exchange it runs to buy and sell advertising.

In exchange, the social media company scrapped plans to adopt a new type of technology that would have undermined Google’s online advertising monopoly, he said.

“They were smart enough not to write their deal down which could result in criminal penalties,” Keller said. “Nobody wants to go to jail and wear an orange jumpsuit.”

Google asked Judge P. Kevin Castel to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit, saying all of the conduct targeted by the states was legal.

“Google doesn’t have to design any of its products to take into account the interests of its rivals,” Mahr told Castel on Wednesday, adding that states “want to turn Google into an ad-tech utility.”

However, Keller said Google has always taken steps to make it harder for rivals to compete, such as manipulating bids for online advertising to ensure Google’s products end up winning.

When those efforts failed, Google bought out the competition, as it did with Meta, he said.

The Google-Meta pact, first made public in the states lawsuit, is also being investigated by regulators in Europe and the UK.

“There are privileges that Google gives to its own shopping tools,” Keller said. “It’s just pure anti-competitive behavior to make sure others can’t disrupt the monopoly.”

Castel, who asked dozens of questions about Google’s ad technology tools and the online advertising market during the two-hour hearing, said the arguments were “helpful” but did not. indicated how it could decide, or when.

Lawyers for the US Department of Justice – which sued Google in 2020 for allegedly monopolizing the search market and are separately investigating the company’s ad tech activities – attended Wednesday’s hearing.

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