The Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against Google has finally made its way to the courtroom. In the first major hearing to stem from the case, DOJ attorney Kenneth Dintzer said Google pays out “enormous numbers” to keep its search engine as the default setting across device ecosystems.
“Google invests billions in defaults, knowing people won’t change them,” Dintzer said, according to a Bloomberg report. “They are buying default exclusivity because defaults matter a lot.”
The antitrust case against Google holds big implications not just for Google but also for the Justice Department’s overarching Big Tech reform. It’s the first such Big Tech case the DOJ served up — nearly two years ago now — and it will undoubtedly affect other, similar cases, like the one the Justice Department is planning to serve Apple in the not-too-distant future.
Default by default — The DOJ’s case focuses on Google’s Search empire. Though Google’s properties are many, this is as good a place to start as any: Search is where Google brings in a significant portion of its revenue, thanks to its massive advertising platform. And keeping Google the default search option is an important step toward maintaining dominance — hence the contracts Google has made with companies like Samsung, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Apple.
Google’s initial argument against the antitrust case isn’t all that convincing. The company’s lawyer argued at this trial that smaller search engines aren’t the only competition Google faces in the search-engine industry; companies like TikTok, Meta, and Amazon are all competitors there, too.
“You don’t have to go to Google to shop on Amazon,” the attorney said. “You don’t have to go to Google to buy plane tickets on Expedia.”
Just the beginning — This hearing was really just a precursor to the actual showdown. The bulk of the trial is expected to begin sometime in 2023, though an official date has yet to be set.
Google will really need to bring substantive evidence to prove it hasn’t monopolized the search-engine market. Right now the company’s lawyer is relying on arguments such as pointing out that these companies partner with Google not because they’re required to but “because they want to.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is also expected to serve Apple with a similar antitrust lawsuit before the year is over, and the Federal Trade Commission is working on plenty of Big Tech lawsuits of its own. Big Tech policy reform is an agonizingly slow process, but these organizations are finally making big moves toward progress.