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New DOJ Google lawsuit could accelerate Biden’s antitrust agenda

The news: The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly preparing a second antitrust lawsuit against Google over its digital ad practices, according to Bloomberg.

  • The suit, which could land as soon as the end of 2021, alleges that Google uses its online advertising dominance to manipulate ad auctions to benefit itself, a claim similar to the one made in a lawsuit filed by 10 states attorneys general late last year.
  • Google has vigorously denied the accusations, saying its ad technology helps enable small business growth and claiming there is currently “enormous competition in advertising tools” from companies like Amazon and Comcast.

How we got here: The new suit would come a little more than one year after the DOJ launched a separate lawsuit accusing Google of using anti-competitive practice to maintain its search dominance—though the DOJ reportedly started looking into Google’s advertising practices as far back as 2019.

The bigger picture: A new DOJ suit would mark the first new major federal action brought against Big Tech under new regulatory leadership.

  • The Biden administration has yet to file any substantial lawsuit, but it has appointed aggressive regulators to top federal positions and signaled an interest in strengthening antitrust enforcement.
  • There have been stumbles too: the FTC (which has its own Google suit) was recently forced to refile its major Facebook lawsuit after courts struck it down, claiming the agency had failed to prove Facebook holds monopoly status in the US social network market.

What’s next? The DOJ suit would mark an inflection point for the Biden administration’s antitrust efforts, and could signify increased regulation of other Big Tech giants.

  • At the same time, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress are considering sweeping new bills that could fundamentally rewrite antitrust law if passed.
  • It’s worth noting that most of these efforts enjoy wide public support: A January 2021 Vox survey conducted with Data for Progress found 59% of US adults who are likely voters support breaking up Big Tech monopolies to promote market competition.
  • Similarly, 57% of US adults surveyed by Gallup in February said the US government should increase regulation of Big Tech companies, an increase from 48% two years prior.