Google Faces Antitrust Reckoning as Landmark Trial Nears Conclusion

The US government is set to deliver closing arguments in its antitrust case against Google, accusing the tech giant of illegally maintaining its dominance in online search. The trial, which began in September 2022, has seen high-profile executives testify and troves of internal documents introduced as evidence.

Nitish Verma
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Google Faces Antitrust Reckoning as LandmarkTrialNears Conclusion

Google Faces Antitrust Reckoning as LandmarkTrialNears Conclusion

The US government is set to deliver its closing arguments on Thursday in a historic antitrust case against Google, accusing the tech giant of illegally abusing its power to maintain dominance in the online search market. The trial, which began on September 12, in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, is presided over by Judge Amit P. Mehta, a jurist with extensive experience in antitrust law.

The Justice Department, joined by a coalition of state attorneys general, alleges that Google illegally shielded its monopoly in internet search by paying billions of dollars to persuade companies like Apple and Samsung to make Google the default search engine on their devices. Prosecutors claim these tactics have allowed Google to control roughly 90% of the US search engine market for over a decade.

Why this matters: The outcome of this trial will have significant implications for the future of online search and the tech industry as a whole, potentially shaping the way people access and interact with information online. A ruling against Google could also set a precedent for antitrust cases against other tech giants, leading to a more competitive and diverse online landscape.

Google, however, maintains that its search engine's popularity stems from its superior quality and that users have ample options to access information online. "Users today have more search options and more ways to access information online than ever before," stated Google's lead lawyer, John Schmidtlein. The company asserts that users can easily change the default search engine on their devices with minimal effort.

Throughout the 10-weektrial, high-profile Silicon Valley executives, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, took the stand. Troves of internal documents were introduced as evidence, sparking arguments over redacted information, closed-door testimony, and alleged destruction of employee chat logs. The Justice Department revealed that Google paid a staggering $26.3 billion in 2021 to secure its position being the default search engine on phones and web browsers, with Apple receiving around $18 billion of that sum.

Executives from smaller search engines, such as DuckDuckGo and Neeva, testified that Google's exclusive deals effectively shut them out of the market. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed concerns that Google's dominance has turned the internet into the "Google web" and feared the company might employ similar tactics to dominate the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence.

The ruling in this case, expected in the coming months, could have far-reaching implications for how people use and interact with the internet. If Judge Mehta sides with the Justice Department, Google could face fines or be forced to restructure its business. Many antitrust experts anticipate the judge will find some of Google's practices unlawful while allowing others to continue.

Throughout the trial, Judge Mehta has been lauded for his meticulous and thorough approach, asking incisive questions and seeking additional insight from witnesses. In November, he acknowledged the case's complexity, stating,"It's been an extremely long, arduous road, and that's not just this trial, but the duration of the case. "He candidly admitted,"I can tell you, as I sit here today, I have no idea what I'm going to do."

The outcome of thistrialis expected to set a precedent for a series of pending US antitrust cases against other tech giants, including Amazon, Apple, and Meta. As Rebecca Haw Allensworth, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, put it,"This will be the most important decision and the most important antitrust trial of the 21st century. "The world eagerly awaits Judge Mehta's ruling, which will undoubtedly shape the future of the tech industry and the way people access the internet."

Key Takeaways

  • US gov't accuses Google of illegally abusing its power in online search market.
  • Google allegedly paid $26.3B in 2021 to be default search engine on devices.
  • Outcome of trial could set precedent for antitrust cases against other tech giants.
  • Ruling could lead to fines or business restructuring for Google.
  • Decision expected in coming months, with far-reaching implications for internet use.