4 More States, Puerto Rico Join Texas-Led Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google

4 More States, Puerto Rico Join Texas-Led Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters at a news conference outside the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 9, 2016. (Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says that five additional states and territories have joined its lawsuit against Google, which alleges antitrust violations and deceptive acts by the technology behemoth.

Attorneys general from Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and Puerto Rico joined the multistate lawsuit, led by Texas, that originally was filed by a coalition of 10 states. Paxton’s office filed an amended complaint (pdf) on March 16, reflecting the changes.
“Today’s filing underscores the broad consensus that Google’s practices require review and swift action under antitrust and consumer protection laws,” Paxton said in a statement.

The lawsuit accuses Alphabet Inc.’s Google of collecting thousands of data points about people and using that information for its own benefit and for “lying to advertisers, publishers, and consumers” about their conduct and motives.

It alleges that Google had “monopolized or attempted to monopolize” products and services used by advertisers and publishers in online-display advertising. These practices, the lawsuit argues, then reduces the publishers’ ability to monetize content, increases advertisers’ costs to advertise, and directly harmed consumers.

“We will not allow this unprecedented, unlawful conduct to continue. Our coalition looks forward to holding Google accountable for its illegal conduct and reforming Google’s practices in the future. And we are confident Google will be forced to pay for its misconduct through significant financial penalties,” he added.

Among the allegations include an anticompetitive agreement Google had allegedly entered with Facebook. According to a redacted version of the lawsuit (pdf) filed in December 2020, Facebook announced in 2017 that it would try a new method of selling online advertising called “header bidding,” which would act as a threat of competition for Google.

The lawsuit suggested Facebook eventually “curtailed its involvement” with the project after Google gave Facebook “information, speed, and other advantages in the [redacted] auctions that Google runs for publishers’ mobile app advertising inventory each month in the United States.”

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which both say they’ve reviewed an unredacted version of the complaint, reported the alleged secret deal referred to in the lawsuit was code-named “Jedi Blue” by Google.
Google's offices in New York City, on Oct. 20, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Google's offices in New York City, on Oct. 20, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In a recent interview, Paxton expressed confidence in the trajectory of his lawsuit, saying that he believes that there is a high likelihood of success.

“We’ve sued Google for antitrust violations, and we think we’ve absolutely got a case that will win, and very likely, there [will] be other companies [doing] this process [that we will] learn have done the same thing [and] that are in the very same position,” he told Breitbart.

He argued that Google’s digital advertising business model presents a conflict of interest because it represents both buyers and sellers of online advertising.

“[Google represents] the buyers of advertising, the sellers of advertising, and they control the exchange,” Paxton told the news outlet.

“It would be like Goldman Sachs owning the only exchange and representing all the buyers and sellers at the same time, knowing all the information, and therefore, they can massively profit at the expense of these business owners who then have to pass on those costs to consumers. So consumers are paying an exorbitantly high price for use of the Internet without even knowing it.”

Other states that have joined in Texas’s suit include Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.

The Lone Star State has been cracking down on the monopolistic ways in which Silicon Valley companies have been operating, including how they moderate user content.

These companies have been scrutinized repeatedly for their perceived political bias and alleged unbalanced moderation of users’ content. Critics say much of the companies’ moderation in the past year has focused on conservative speech and speech from individuals deemed to be supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott previously said he’s working with state legislators on a bill to prevent big tech companies from taking action to moderate user content based on political viewpoints.

Similarly, Florida has also proposed measures that would penalize social media companies that de-platform candidates during an election. The legislation would fine companies $100,000 a day until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.

The Sunshine State would also require companies who promote a candidate to record such endorsements as a political campaign contribution at the state’s election commission.