Omidyar Network Applauds the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Case vs. Google


CONTACT: Beth Kanter, [email protected], 773-551-7044

On January 24th, the United States’ Justice Department, together with several states, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. In the powerful words of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, “We allege that Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.”

Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director of Public Knowledge echoed this assessment, “For years, newspapers, small businesses, content creators, entrepreneurs, competitors, and consumers have been telling their stories of how Google’s ad tech systems are unfair, unclear, and uncompetitive, and how the internet suffers as a result. With this lawsuit the DOJ puts a spotlight on the anticompetitive strategies behind the curtain: how Google bought up would-be competitors, froze out rivals, and leveraged its power from one product to the next.”

Omidyar Network applauds this latest effort to rein in the power of dominant tech companies, and hold Google accountable for their sustained anti-competitive behavior in the digital advertising market, which has created monopoly abuses, stifled innovation, and excluded scores of competitors from having a fair shot. As we argued in our 2020 roadmap “Roadmap for a Digital Advertising Monopolization Case Against Google,” Google has effectively taken over every function of the digital advertising space that connects advertisers to publishers, and uses its data advantage, acquisitions, and market power to exclude its rivals, weaken original content providers, reduce transparency, and charge high prices. Such monopolistic and potentially illegal action causes specific harms to advertisers, publishers, and ultimately consumers.

As described by Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project, “The Department of Justice’s rigorous case against Google’s ad tech monopolization scheme is a watershed moment for the anti-monopoly movement and pivotal milestone in the broader fight to rebalance economic power in American society. Through this latest demonstration of commitment to holding the most powerful corporations that cause the most wide-ranging harms accountable to the law, the DOJ Antitrust Division is not only working to restore fair competition in digital markets, but also rebuilding public trust that government will stand against corporate power when justice demands it.”

Omidyar Network supports the development and enforcement of competition policy because we believe platform accountability requires competitive markets. If done well, competition policy can result in more innovation, more responsible technology, and better outcomes for users. This latest salvo, the first under the Biden administration, builds on a series of antitrust actions over the last few years. It is further proof that the time for meaningful public oversight, including powerful remedy, has arrived in the United States.

As Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Open Markets Institute put it, “The ultimate purpose of anti-monopoly is to protect democracy and individual liberty. By that measure, the DOJ’s lawsuit against Google will be remembered as one of the most important cases in American history. Google threatens society in many ways. But the biggest danger comes from their manipulation of information and speech, and their theft of the advertising on which our free press depends. The DOJ deserves enormous credit for putting first things first.