The Hill: Justice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly

October 20, 2020 Media
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday charged Google with illegally maintaining a monopoly on search and search advertising, teeing off a legal battle likely to take years and send shockwaves across Silicon Valley.

The lawsuit, filed in District of Columbia federal court, is the first to result from a yearlong investigation into concentrations of economic power in the online economy.

The DOJ argues that Google has entered into exclusionary contracts with phone makers to preload its search engine onto devices using Alphabet’s Android operating system.

Those contracts have allowed Google to maintain a monopoly while stifling competition and innovation, the suit contends. It also accuses Google of using profits from that monopoly to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on web browsers, including Safari.

The parallels between this case and the one brought against Microsoft in 1998 are clear: Both challenge the use of pre-installations and exclusive contracts to boost a product.

“It is almost to a T, a mirror of the case against Microsoft,” Sarah Miller, co-director of the American Economic Liberties Project, told The Hill. In that case, a court ordered Microsoft be broken up into two separate companies, but the tech giant avoided that fate after a successful appeal.