A federal judge on Tuesday will begin hearing claims by the Justice Department and a group of states that Google abused its monopoly power over online search services. The trial is expected to take more than two months, after which a judge will decide whether Google acted illegally — and if so, what to do about it.
Google’s hugely successful search engine has turned it into a giant in advertising, cloud computing and online video powerhouse YouTube. A ruling against it could limit the way Google competes in the market and shift power in Silicon Valley.
The case is a test for governments that say tech giants like Google have too much influence on our online lives. The country’s antitrust laws were first written more than a century ago, and the test will show whether they can be used to rein in the fast-moving technology industry.
What is Google accusing?
The Justice Department says Google controls it Approximately 90 percent of the global search marketIllegally used partnerships with other companies to shut out competitors.
Thanks to billions of dollars worth of deals with companies like Apple, Samsung and Mozilla, Google is the default search engine for billions of internet users when they open the browser on their phones, tablets and personal computers. The government says it has prevented other search engines such as Microsoft Bing and DuckDuck Co from amassing meaningful market share.
The Justice Department also says Google’s practice of preloading its services on devices that illegally use its Android software helped the Internet giant maintain a monopoly.
What does Google say?
While Google insists its business practices are legal and common, and it pays to appear in Apple’s Safari browser or Mozilla’s Firefox, the deal is akin to cereal makers paying supermarkets to stock boxes at eye level.
It has repeatedly argued that it has many successful competitors, including Amazon and TikTok, although they do not operate general-purpose search engines.
Consumers have the option to use other search engines, Google argues, but choose it because they find it more helpful.
What should the government do to win?
The government must prove that Google’s trade agreements have lessened competition. It must also explain how these business practices directly or indirectly harmed consumers—a critical hurdle in antitrust cases, usually.
The government must convince a judge to reject Google’s argument that e-commerce sites like Amazon and social media services like TikTok or Instagram are in the same market as Google’s search engine.
What happens if Google is found liable for violating the law?
If Justice Amit B. Mehta determines that Google violated the law, he will also consider ways to remedy the situation.
The Justice Department has yet to say what the court will do if it wins, but remedies available under antitrust law include forcing Google to restructure.
However, finding a solution that doesn’t force unsued companies, including Apple and Samsung, to change their business practices could be tricky.