WASHINGTON – The United States argued on Tuesday that Google did not play by the rules in its efforts to keep its dominance in online search, paying billions of dollars to ensure that smaller rivals never got traction.
“This case is about the future of the Internet,” said the Justice Department’s lead lawyer on the case Kenneth Dintzer, who added that Google began to illegally maintain its monopoly in 2010.
The US Justice Department has accused Google of paying billions of dollars annually to device makers like Apple, wireless companies like AT&T and browser makers like Mozilla to keep Google’s search engine on top.
Without serious competition, Google innovated less and paid less attention to other concerns like privacy, said Mr Dintzer.
Google’s defence is simple. It argues that its overwhelmingly high market share is not because it broke the law, but because it is a fast, effective search engine. It is also free.
Consumers, Google’s lawyers will argue, can delete the Google app from their devices or simply type Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo into a browser to use an alternative search engine. They will argue that consumers stick with Google because they rely on it to answer questions and are not disappointed.
The trial has opening arguments on Tuesday before a packed federal court in Washington, and is expected to run up to 10 weeks. It has two phases. In the first, Judge Amit Mehta will decide if Google has broken antitrust law in how it manages search and search advertising.
If Google is found to have broken the law, Judge Mehta will then decide how best to resolve it. He may decide simply to order Google to stop practices he has found to be illegal or he may order Google to sell assets.
The government, in its complaint, asked for “structural relief as needed” but did not define it.
The legal fight has huge implications for Big Tech, which has been accused of buying or strangling small competitors but has insulated itself against many accusations of breaking antitrust law because the services the companies provide to users are free, as in the case of Google, or inexpensive, as in the case of Amazon.com
Previous major antitrust trials include Microsoft, filed in 1998, and AT&T, filed in 1974. The AT&T break-up in 1982 is credited with paving the way for the modern cellphone industry, while the fight with Microsoft is credited with opening space for Google and others on the Internet. REUTERS
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