The US government sued Google Tuesday, accusing the Silicon Valley titan of maintaining an “illegal monopoly” in online search and advertising, in the country’s biggest antitrust case in decades, opening up the door to a potential breakup of the company
The politically charged case, which could take years to play out, opens up a new battle between the US government and Big Tech with potentially major implications for the sector.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said the case filed with 11 states takes aim at Google’s dominance of the online ecosystem.
“Google is the gateway to the internet,” Rosen told reporters, citing the company’s billions in payments to device makers to remain the primary search engine.
“It has maintained its monopoly through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
The lawsuit filed in Washington contends Google’s actions shut out competitors and proposes that the court consider a range of remedies including a possible breakup, offering few specifics.
The filing calls for the court to “enjoin Google” from anticompetitive practices and consider “structural relief as needed to cure any anticompetitive harm,” which would mean structural changes to the tech titan.
Asked about how officials would seek to break up Google, Rosen deferred, saying, “the litigation will have to proceed a little further before we would want to set out specifics.”
Google called the lawsuit “deeply flawed.”
“People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The move comes after months of investigations by US federal and state antitrust enforcers seeking to check the power of the massive technology firm and parallel probes into other titans such as Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
Progressives have claimed the huge firms have stifled competition and worsened economic inequality. A recent House of Representatives report suggested Google and others should be broken up to preserve competition. Conservatives have accused the internet giants of political bias, although evidence has been scant.
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