Court Rejects Google Motion to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit, Orders Company to Produce Documents

Court Rejects Google Motion to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit, Orders Company to Produce Documents
A Google logo on a sign outside of the Google headquarters, in Mountain View, Calif., on Sept. 2, 2015. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

A federal judge has rejected Google’s attempt to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit, ruling that plaintiffs have “adequately alleged” a claim under a key antitrust law.

Rumble, a video platform, sued Google in 2021, charging that the company violated the Sherman Act, an 1890 law that outlaws anti-competitive practices.

Among the violations, according to the suit: Google “rigging its search algorithms” so that its videos would be preferred over Rumble’s and setting up a situation that led to the YouTube application being installed on many Android-based smartphones.
Google disputed the accusations in a motion to dismiss, saying the complaint was “based on conjecture, speculation, and uninformed media reports about how Google displays and ranks videos on its search engine results pages and how mobile device manufacturers license the YouTube app for preinstallation on Android devices.”

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr., an Obama appointee, sided with Rumble.

“Without real dispute, Plaintiff has adequately alleged a Section 2 claim,” he said, referring to a section of the Sherman Act, violations of which involve two elements, according to a previous ruling in a separate case: “(1) the possession of monopoly power in the relevant market and (2) the willful acquisition or maintenance of that power as distinguished from growth or development as a consequence of a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident.”

Rumble said that Google has a monopoly over the online video platform market because YouTube, which it owns, controls 73 percent of online video activity. Rumble also said Google is not benefiting users or its business by designing search algorithms that rank YouTube links higher than those of competitors.

“Defendant’s motion is based on the somewhat counterintuitive premise that Plaintiff has pled too much,“ Gilliam wrote in the July 29 ruling. ”Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s amended complaint should be broken into distinct theories of liability based on (1) self-preferencing, (2) tying of the YouTube app to other Google apps, and (3) unlawfully dominating the search market with agreements involving distribution of Defendant’s search product. Mot. at 1. Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff has adequately pled a Section 2 claim based on the first theory of liability.”

Gilliam said Google’s citations of two unpublished district court cases were unconvincing and denied its motion to dismiss. He also rejected a bid to strike paragraphs from Rumble’s complaint.

The case will now move forward, with a joint statement due from the parties by Aug. 23, and a status conference scheduled for Aug. 30. Rumble is seeking damages and an order that Google and its subsidiaries be blocked from illegal anticompetitive conduct.