The Justice Department and several states filed suit Tuesday against Google, accusing the company of violating antitrust laws to preserve its dominance over digital advertising technologies.
The technologies, known as ad tech, automatically connect prospective advertisers with website publishers who have open ad space. They’re automatically triggered when a person opens a webpage that has ad space to sell, almost instantly matching the site’s publisher with an advertiser, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference.
Garland said that Google controls the technology used by nearly every major website publisher to offer advertising space, the leading tool used by advertisers to buy space and the largest ad exchange matching publishers to advertisers.
“As alleged in our complaint, for 15 years Google has pursued a course of anticompetitive conduct that has allowed it to halt the rise of rival technologies, manipulate auction mechanics to insulate itself from competition and force advertisers and publishers to use its tools,” Garland said.
“As a result of this scheme, website creators earn less and advertisers pay more. That means that fewer publishers are able to offer internet users content without subscriptions, paywalls or other forms of monetization.”
In the complaint, the DOJ and the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia, accused Google of “neutralizing or eliminating” ad tech competitors over the last 15 years by buying the competition, forcing publishers and advertisers to use Google products and making it impossible to use other companies.
Authorities are asking for damages, for Google to sell some of its ad tech products and an injunction keeping the company from engaging in anticompetitive practices, Garland said.
In a statement obtained by CNN, Google said that the lawsuit “attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector.” The company said the case duplicated several claims made in a lawsuit filed by Texas that were struck down last year by a judge who determined they were “not plausible,” according to Google and Bloomberg Law.
“(The) DOJ is doubling down on a flawed argument that would slow innovation, raise advertising fees, and make it harder for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow,” a Google spokesperson told CNN.
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