U.S. DOJ says Google breakup may be needed to end violations of antitrust law

The U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google on Tuesday, claiming the $1 trillion company uses its market power to fend off rivals and said nothing was off the table, including a breakup of the internet search engine and advertising company.

Google breakup. Image: Google logo

Diane Bartz and David Shepardson for Reuters:

The lawsuit, which was joined by 11 states, marks the biggest antitrust case in a generation, comparable to the lawsuit against Microsoft Corp filed in 1998 and the 1974 case against AT&T which led to the breakup of the Bell System.

The lawsuit claims that Google acted unlawfully to maintain its position in search and search advertising on the internet. It states that “absent a court order, Google will continue executing its anticompetitive strategy, crippling the competitive process, reducing consumer choice, and stifling innovation.

The complaint says that Google has nearly 90% of all general search engine queries in the United States and almost 95% of searches on mobile.

“Google is now the unchallenged gateway to the internet for billions of users worldwide … For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy, the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.”

“Ultimately it is consumers and advertisers that suffer from less choice, less innovation and less competitive advertising prices,” the lawsuit states. “So we are asking the court to break Google’s grip on search distribution so the competition and innovation can take hold.”

More lawsuits could be in the offing since probes by state attorneys general into Google’s broader businesses are under way, as well as an investigation of its broader digital advertising businesses. A group of attorneys general led by Texas is expected to file a separate lawsuit focused on digital advertising as soon as November, while a group led by Colorado is contemplating a more expansive lawsuit against Google.

MacDailyNews Take: Can we get a swing with that sledgehammer, too, pretty please?

Again, Google is a massive problem that simply must be addressed. There is one “Big Tech” company that is really stifling competition and for which antitrust remedies are in order: Alphabet (Google).

When one search engine has 86% share of the worldwide market (and Google basically isn’t even used in China), there is far, far, far too much power concentrated in one company. The whole concept of the World Wide Web is destroyed when a sole gatekeeper basically controls what gets seen, read, and heard. It’s not open, it’s completely closed and controlled.

Publishers who want to be read, for example, spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they follow Google’s dictates, nebulously sussed from Google’s secret algorithm, formatting their sites, even writing their articles a certain way, including certain words they might not choose if allowed to write freely, simply to please Google’s algorithm.

If Google doesn’t like a site (imagine a site that believes Google’s Android is a stolen product and says so repeatedly), Google can hurt that site by, say, excluding that site from the News tab on Google (since 2009), so that the site is more difficult to find, hurting that site’s traffic and ability to generate revenue. (Is there a lawsuit there? Someday we might find out.)

Hopefully, lawmakers can come together to figure out a way to do something to remedy the horribly uncompetitive situation in internet search. Google is, and has been for years, a perfect example of why antitrust laws exist. — MacDailyNews, July 29, 2020


With this unprecedented power, platforms have the ability to redirect into their pockets the advertising dollars that once went to newspapers and magazines. No one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t.MacDailyNews, November 9, 2017


Imagine if your livelihood depended on one company that had not only monopolized web search (and, thereby, basically controlled how new customers find you), but also controlled the bulk of online advertising dollars which funded your business and which they could pull, simply threaten to pull, or reduce rates at any time? Now also imagine if you believe this monopolist basically stole the product of another company that is the very subject of your business? How much would you criticize the monopolist thief’s business practices?

You might guess that it would be a tough road to walk. (We’re only imagining, of course!)

That would be a good example of why monopolies are bad for everyone.

The U.S. government has utterly failed to police Google. Because the people with the power to do so currently are corrupt. Follow the money. Hopefully, the European Union will help to correct the situation.

In the meantime, stop using Google search and Google products wherever possible. Monopolies are bad for everyone.MacDailyNews, July 14, 2016

13 Comments

  1. Been using DuckDuckGo via Safari (MacOS and iOS) for quite a while, now, and have been quite happy with it. There was a time that Google Search was vastly superior but the gap has closed considerably. When I do go back to Google Search I am reminded of how much of an advertising platform it is. And Chrome is not as good for Apple users, imho.

    Just the same, this is an ominous development for the tech industry. The question I have is has Google been good for Search on the whole? Where would we the Internet be without Google Search, Analytics and Adwords? I personally find Adwords to be exploitative, but not sure about the other two. I don’t have all the answers and I hope the government examines things carefully.

    1. As the sole arbiter of iOS App distribution, Apple more so than Amazon or Google has to be careful in denying Apps to their App store. Ending payments for default positions would go far in removing Apple’s guilt by association for agreeing to those deals.

  2. If Amazon doesn’t receive the same or greater scrutiny, something is askew. As the world’s largest retailer that seems to have become the funnel to buy almost everything and steadily having greater links to the US military, they deserve it. Say nothing of being the driver of one of the top 3 media sources in the US.

    1. The nature of free enterprise is that when you develop a better mousetrap, the world beats a path to your door. Similarly if you develop a better search engine or a better retail experience. Then the guys trying to sell the less popular mousetraps complain and the government intervenes, either by forcing the top company to sell inferior mousetraps or by forcing it to license its technology to its competitors.

      To repeat, how do you “split up” a search engine? A few decades after the Bell System was split up, we have as few telecom competitors as we did in 1970. Good competitors grow, while poor competitors fail unless the government props them up. I thought you guys were against government intervention in private enterprise.

        1. Right, because we all trust the government to control our search results. Sort of like a public library where reading the books is free, but the catalog is monitored by Big Brother.

          1. I didn’t say that but…
            Google makes money from us without our knowledge with their partner networks. That alone justifies utility status which them can regulate:

            -Extent of time browsing information remains available (right to be forgotten, but broader)
            -What data may be harvested, and again, for how long.
            -The user decides whether Google makes money from them.

            Yes, many details to be ironed out, but with regulatory authority.
            If the government can’t spy on us, why should Google be able to do so in an unfettered fashion. I propose we fetter!

            1. The short answer is that the government is subject to the First Amendment, while private corporations are not. Further, Americans can choose not to use Google products; they cannot avoid being subject to government laws and regulations.

              For a cynic, you seem pretty naive to assume that a government that assumed the right to review search results for “bias” would not use that power to promote pro-government speech and punish anti-government speech. A fact or opinion that is demoted to Page 10 of the search results might as well be banned directly.

              Again, censoring for bias is forbidden to the government by the First Amendment, and it is guaranteed to private parties. The process of editing a newspaper is the selection of some material and the exclusion of other material. Without the protection of that process of curation, freedom of the press would be meaningless.

            2. To avoid misunderstanding: I agree that Google and other companies that have access to our data should only use it as WE direct, and that the government should help us by requiring full disclosure and punishing unauthorized use of our data.

              However most of the comments on MDN are not focused on that issue, but on Google’s alleged bias in ordering search results. They want the Federal Government to force Google to demote libturd viewpoints and feature Trumpist viewpoints. That is absolutely prohibited by the First Amendment.

            3. @TxUser
              A private company’s right to not abide by the First Amendment is not unlimited. In fact, it’s quite limited. Employees on one hand and customers on the other are not the Company’s property.

              I also did not say the Government should censor, rather the Government should use it’s regulatory power to impose policy. Under the auspices of the Constitution, of course.

              If you want to question the moral validity of Anti-trust law, that’s another matter.

  3. The tin-foil hat that I sometimes wear “makes” me think that when a company has a military connection, they are handled with kid gloves, in such circumstances. From what I understand, Google’s military involvement ceased a few yrs ago. Amazon’s involvement is increasing and is holding a critical place.

    If Google gets spanked harder than Amazon, I’d say my tin-foil hat led me to deduce correctly.

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