WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department and eight states sued Google Tuesday, alleging that its dominance in digital advertising hurts competition.
The government alleges that Google’s plan to assert its dominance has been to “neutralize or eliminate” rivals through acquisitions and to force advertisers to use its products by making it more difficult to use competing products.
The antitrust lawsuit was filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Attorney General Merrick Garland was expected to discuss it at a news conference later Tuesday.
The department’s lawsuit accuses Google of illegally monopolizing the way ads are served online by excluding competitors. This includes its 2008 acquisition of DoubleClick, a dominant ad server, and subsequent deployment of technology that blocks the split-second bidding process for ads displayed on web pages.
At a minimum, the lawsuit wants Google to separate its advertising business, its ad management package, and the ad exchange, as well as “any additional structural relief that is necessary to cure any anticompetitive harm.”
Google Ads Manager allows large publishers who have significant direct sales to manage their ads. The ad exchange is a real-time marketplace for buying and selling display ads online.
Representatives for Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, said the lawsuit “is based on an erroneous argument that it would stifle innovation, increase advertising fees and make it difficult for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow.”
Dina Srinivasan, a Yale University scholar and ad-tech expert, said the lawsuit is “huge” because it aligns the entire nation — state and federal governments — in a bipartisan legal offensive against Google.
This is the latest legal action taken against Google by the Department of Justice or local state governments. In October 2020, for example, the Trump administration and eleven state attorneys general sued Google for violating antitrust laws, alleging anticompetitive practices in the search markets and search advertising.
In essence, the lawsuit aligns the Biden administration and the new states with the 35 states and the District of Columbia that sued Google in December 2020 over the exact same issues.
States participating in the lawsuit include California, Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
AP technology writer Barbara Ortutay reported from San Francisco. AP technology writers Frank Bajak and Matt O’Brien contributed.