Google is set to go to trial Tuesday as the Department of Justice (DOJ) targets the company with allegations that it violated antitrust law, which could affect Big Tech’s dominance and lead to a breakup of the tech giant.
The civil antitrust lawsuit against Google was filed in October 2020 using the Sherman Act and claims that the company used unlawful practices to maintain a monopoly in the search and search advertising markets, according to a DOJ announcement.
A number of top executives will likely testify in the ten-week trial before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, with Obama-appointed Judge Amit Mehta presiding over the outcome that could culminate in a complete partition of the company, according to the Associated Press.
“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives,” Bill Barr, former attorney general, said in the 2020 announcement. “Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people.”
The suit argues that Google engaged in specific actions to maintain a market monopoly, including entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid the preinstallation of other competing search engines, making agreements putting its service in prime locations on mobile devices and being undeletable and entering into an agreement with Apple to make Google the default search engine on its Safari browser, according to the DOJ announcement.
If Mehta issues a ruling saying that Google was in violation of antitrust law, another trial will take place to determine the actions that will be taken to address the company’s monopoly, according to the AP. The company’s parent, Alphabet Inc., has a market cap of $1.7 trillion, with $224 billion in annual ad sales that support 182,000 employees while controlling 90% of the internet search market.
Possible outcomes for Google, if the company is found guilty, are that it could be forced to separate its business or make way for wider options for consumers with competing search engines, which could incentivize other Big Tech companies to avoid practices that could lead to litigation from the DOJ, according to Investopedia. Another outcome could be the end of contracts with smartphone companies like Apple and Samsung that give the search engine preferential treatment, limiting Big Tech’s ability to work cohesively with each other to ensure market dominance.