DOJ Lawsuit Calls for Google to Be Broken Up

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The Department of Justice says Google has illegally seized control of the online ad sector.

The solution, the department (DOJ) said in an antitrust lawsuit filed Tuesday (Jan. 24), is for a court to order the break-up of the digital search giant.

“Having inserted itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace, Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” the department said in the suit.

The suit, mounted by the DOJ and eight U.S. states, asks the court to order the divestiture of “at minimum,” the Google Ad Manager suite, including both Google’s publisher ad server, DFP, and Google’s ad exchange, AdX.

Google responded to the suit by saying the government was “doubling down on a flawed” argument that would hurt small businesses and drive up advertising fees.

“Today’s lawsuit from the DOJ attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector,” a company spokesperson said in a statement issued to PYMNTS. “It largely duplicates an unfounded lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General, much of which was recently dismissed by a federal court.”

In a blog entry Tuesday afternoon, Google added that it was facing increased ad competition from other Big Tech players, including Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. The company also argued the DOJ was asking Google to divest itself of acquisitions the department itself — along with other regulators — had approved.

The suit, the second DOJ antitrust action against Google, targets a sector of the company’s business that accounts for nearly 80% of its revenue.

As PYMNTS has reported, the DOJ sued Google in 2020, claiming the company violated antitrust law to maintain its top position in the search market. The suit argued that 80% of searches in the U.S. are carried out on channels owned or controlled by Google.

Google, which last month asked the court to dismiss the suit, has called the DOJ’s case “deeply flawed,” saying it relies on “dubious antitrust arguments.” The case is set for trial in September.

Reports of this latest suit emerged last summer, as DOJ lawyers began questioning publishers to learn more about Google’s ad practices, which Google has defended.

“Our advertising technologies help websites and apps fund their content, and enable small businesses to reach customers around the world,” said Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels. “The enormous competition in online advertising has made online ads more relevant, reduced ad tech fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”

Google has offered to break up its $209 billion ad tech business in an effort to fend off DOJ court action, PYMNTS wrote last year.

“Google holds a strong position in most of the different parts of the ad-tech business, from the supply side to the demand side — and the marketplace where the orders from both sides are exchanged,” PYMNTS noted.