The U.S. Justice Department and eight states have sued Google this week, claiming the company had illegally abused a monopoly over the technology behind online advertising.
Google’s anti-competitive actions “weakened if not destroyed competition in the ad tech industry,” according to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The lawsuit is the first major move by the Justice Department against a big tech company since President Joe Biden took office and asks the courts to force Google to sell a large part of its ad tech suite of products.
The lawsuit claimed Google had “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers and brokers to facilitate digital advertising.”
Online advertising makes up the majority of Google’s revenue, and the company is the undisputed market leader.
This is the fifth time U.S. officials have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google since 2020. Regulators and lawmakers around the world have attempted to dilute the power of big tech companies. Google has also faced antitrust accusations and investigations in Europe, as have Apple, Amazon and others.
In the latest lawsuit, Garland alleged that Google controlled the technology used by nearly every major website publisher to sell ad space, the leading tool used by advertisers to buy that ad space, and the largest ad exchange that matches publishers and advertisers. This level of control means “website creators earn less and advertisers pay more,” Garland said.
“Each time a threat has emerged, Google has used its market power in one or more of these ad tech tools to quash the threat,” the lawsuit read. “The result: Google’s plan for durable, industrywide dominance has succeeded.”
Google responded by accusing the DOJ of “doubling down on a flawed argument” and said the case attempted to “pick winners and losers,” in the ad tech industry.
The states which joined the legal action were Connecticut, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.