Google said Monday that it had not used its multi-billion dollar deals with other major technology firms to protect its position as the dominant online search engine. This was the company’s first formal rebuttal of Justice Department allegations that these deals violated antitrust laws.
The filing, a 42-page document, is a paragraph – and sometimes sentence – denial of claims by the government and a group of states that have joined their lawsuit. In the filing, Google says it “developed, continuously innovated and promoted” its search product as part of its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
“People use Google Search because they choose, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t just find alternative ways to search for information on the Internet,” the company said.
The filing is Google’s most significant to date in its antitrust battle with the Justice Department, but it will not be the last by a long way. The judge, Amit Mehta, said last week that the trial would not start until 2023.
Google is conducting a growing number of legal disputes in the United States. Republican attorneys general in Texas and other states said in a lawsuit last week that Google broke the law to maintain and protect a monopoly on the technology that serves ads over the Internet.
A day later, a bipartisan group of states led by Colorado and Nebraska filed their own lawsuit focusing on the search business and expanded the Justice Department’s allegations in October. They asked to combine their case with the federal lawsuit.
The lawsuits are at the center of a growing legal backlash against the power of tech giants to act as gatekeepers for trade, communication and culture. The Federal Trade Commission and 40 attorneys general filed lawsuits against Facebook this month, saying they stamped out the competition by buying Instagram and WhatsApp, a lawsuit that the company could ultimately resolve if successful. Federal and state officials are also pursuing investigations against Amazon and Apple.
The Justice Department said in its lawsuit that Google had agreements with device manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and LG to ensure that it was the default search engine on their phones. This pole position is powerful and prevents competing search products like DuckDuckGo from growing, prosecutors said. Eleven attorneys general signed the lawsuit when it was filed. Other states, including California, have asked to join the case.
The company claims that buying standard shelf space on mobile devices is no different from a consumer brand buying preferred shelf space in a grocery store. It is also argued that it is easy for Apple and Android smartphone users to switch from its search service to that of a competitor.
In its filing on Monday, Google admitted that some of the government’s claims were upheld: True, the company said that some dictionaries classify “Google” as a verb. It admitted that “it started in a garage in Menlo Park 22 years ago, creating an innovative way to search the internet. “
And it admitted that its parent company Alphabet is valued at around $ 1 trillion – but denied that such a claim could be made through Google itself.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.