In a recent development, press outlets have successfully secured greater access to evidence presented in the Department of Justice’s antitrust trial investigating Google’s search business. According to Arstechina, the move comes in response to the outlets’ concerns regarding the limited accessibility of trial materials, which have been either withheld, redacted, or closed off due to concerns about protecting industry trade secrets.
Judge Amit Mehta, in a decision made yesterday, granted some of the demands put forth by press outlets, including prominent names such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, MLex, and Law360. These outlets had requested, among other things, that the court mandate the sharing of numerous exhibits that had previously been unavailable to the public, despite pending press requests.
Mehta’s decision outlines that the additional order, alongside recent orders, will facilitate public access to the trial while ensuring the protection of confidential information.
Mehta’s order acts as a supplement to a prior agreement that detailed how the Department of Justice, state plaintiffs, and Google “may” share trial documents online. Under this new order, all press outlets must designate a single representative to submit document requests on behalf of the entire group.
These requests should be submitted by 7 pm ET on the day when the evidence is shared in court to expedite access. The order also stipulates that requests exceeding ten documents in a single day could lead to delays. While some outlets had reservations about this daily limit, it essentially necessitates that outlets coordinate and prioritize their requests to ensure prompt access to the most sensitive trial information.
Notably, Mehta declined to update the court-ordered prior agreement, which stated that parties “may” publicly post trial documents, instead of mandating that parties “must” post all evidence cleared as not confidential. Despite not meeting all the demands put forward by the press outlets, Mehta’s order was generally seen as a victory for the media.
Bloomberg reporter Leah Nylen celebrated the order as “Not exactly what we asked for but a great outcome for press freedom.”
In another update shared on a platform (referred to as “X”), Nylen provided a “handy” Google Drive link. This link will serve as a central hub where outlets will make all unsealed testimony and evidence available to the public. It will also offer information for the public to track the progress of pending press trial exhibit requests, thereby enhancing transparency regarding the evidence that is still being withheld.