Antitrust

Dozens of States Just Sued To Break Up Google. The Biggest Losers Would Be Consumers.

If the lawsuit were to succeed, it would hurt the people it seeks to help.

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A group of state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google today, alleging that the company maintains monopoly control over internet search via competition-squashing behavior.

The complaint, brought by 38 states and U.S. territories, hones in on three core tenets of Google's "anticompetitive conduct": establishing partnerships with other tech companies in related markets, limiting advertising interoperability with competitors, and prioritizing their own products and services in search results.

"Our economy is more concentrated than ever, and consumers are squeezed when they are deprived of choices in valued products and services," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in a statement. "Google's anticompetitive actions have protected its general search monopolies and excluded rivals, depriving consumers of the benefits of competitive choices, forestalling innovation, and undermining new entry or expansion."

But it would be consumers that would suffer most from the government meddling with Google.

It's true that the tech giant maintains the biggest share of internet search, with current estimates landing at 88 percent. That's not for lack of options: Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, OneSearch, and others provide viable alternatives, should consumers want to use them.

The lawsuit counters that by partnering with companies to make its search engine the default tool, Google has made it impossible for those rivals to penetrate the market. In so doing, users on Apple computers, for instance, can access search results courtesy of Google by typing directly into the search bar instead of manually navigating to Google's homepage first. The company has done the same in pairing with firms producing connected cars and other voice-assisted technologies.

But Google achieved search dominance before it established those partnerships. "Those of us who hark back to the old days, when you had to first type 'www.google.com' to perform a search," writes Megan Mcardle at The Washington Post, "will recall that that's exactly what people did, even if another search engine was the default." In January 2010, prior to the advent of voice-connected cars, the company controlled 90.77 percent of the search market—slightly more than what it has today. Forcing Google to relinquish their deals with other companies, then, would likely not have a significant impact on search dominance, but it would make things less convenient for the customer.

The suit also zeroed in on Google's propensity to promote its own adjacent products at the top of search results. A query for a particular restaurant, for instance, will likely prioritize the Google Maps link and location at the top of the fold, above, say, a link to Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews.

But if the solution to that is to break up the company entirely, consumers again will suffer the brunt of that blow.

"Demanding Google stop providing direct answers and relevant information in searches to instead make users go through lists of websites will only degrade the experience and make it harder for consumers to find what they seek," argues Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of the trade association NetChoice. "If successful, this lawsuit would make it harder for users to search for answers online and small businesses to reach customers by hiding contact information and facts behind clicks and paywalls."

Today's action follows on the heels of a lawsuit filed in October by the Department of Justice and 11 states, which similarly failed to show tangible consumer harm and instead reverted to criticizing Google's bigness. Though that complaint was filed by the Trump administration, its reasoning sounded more suited to the left, where free markets take a back seat to trying to make everything as fair as possible. And with the government in charge of ensuring fairness, you're less likely to make things fair and more likely to hurt the people you're trying to help.

NEXT: In 2020, the Feds Have Executed More Inmates Than All States Combined

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  1. Antitrust Legislation is almost never based on helping the consumer. It is to help competitors, with the yet-to-be-proven rationale that without competitors consumers will be harmed…somehow.

    1. Same argument used against breaking up Standard Oil.

      It’s throwback Thursday!

      1. I was just reading an account of early Rockefeller. As his share of the kerosene market went from 10% to 80%, the price fell by something like 90%.

        But we all KNOW that monopolies are bad. Or something.

        1. Assume for the sake of argument that the price collapse was driven by external forces.

          With the price collapse, any given company needed much larger volume to remain profitable. The market could no longer sustain as many competitors.

          Had Standard Oil taken actions to prop up failing competitors, that also would have been in violation of the anti-trust laws.

          Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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    2. The purpose of antitrust legislation is to punish success.

      1. Or thwart neo-corporatism.

      2. To punish unregulated success. Give the king his cut, everything’s fine.

        1. Hence, antitrust legislation. Hey, I think I get it now.

    3. “”with the yet-to-be-proven rationale that without competitors consumers will be harmed…somehow.””

      Not that I necessarily agree with how antitrust legislation is applied. I thought the MS/internet explore lawsuit was pure BS.

      Absent of competitors is a monopoly. Is there any proof that a monopoly will harm consumers?

      1. Because those evil old white be-monocled, top-hat-wearing oligarchs are, ummm…you know…EVIL. Once they are the ONLY place you can get a certain commodity-**BAM!!!** price rises to infinity!

        Monopolies are the reason food is unaffordable and you can’t buy clothes!! REEEEEE!!!

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    5. Yea but other countries have already tried to sue and regulate google not just because of antitrust concerns, but because of serious security concerns.

      They have been accused of affecting elections and it is well known that they provide vastly different results to people across the globe based on cultural, political, religious, etc variations.

      The last thing I would want is for the government to regulate them, but google is a serious problem. Lawsuits like this, at the very least, shed light on how little the public should trust google and the information we get from them.

  2. While I certainly have an opinion on whether or not Google should be ‘broken up’, I have to ask – are people really so stupid that they do no know how to change the default search engine in their browser?

    Are they so technically illiterate that they don’t even have enough knowledge to know that its *possible* – and so then ask someone how to do it?

    And is this level of ignorance what people really want to use to justify the government stepping in here and using violence against Google?

    1. That’s not even it. Google is huge and rich, and people in politics assume that means they did something dishonest because that’s how politicians get rich.

      1. Google’s dumped hundreds of millions of dollars in the last nine years into pushing regulations that would inhibit start-up competition against many of Alphabet’s new projects.

        Corporatists aren’t free market capitalists, sarc.

        1. Show us, on the doll, where The Big Evil Google touched you, in a bad way?

            1. Hey whining crybaby… I pay for my own web site at Go-Daddy. I say some VERY sarcastic and un-politically-correct, intolerant things about cults like Scientology there (and Government Almighty as well). I am QUITE sure that a LOT of “tolerant” liberal-type folks at Google etc. would NOT be happy with the types of things I wrote! Yet, if you do a search-string “Scienfoology”, Google will take you STRAIGHT to MY web site, top hit! #1!
              https://www.google.com/search?q=scienfoology&nfpr=1&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjPzZqf0dXsAhUCT6wKHez9DNwQvgUoAXoECDEQKg&biw=1920&bih=941
              Your whining and crying is (just about ) UTTERLY without basis!

              1. Oh no you got triggered by the facts!

                You gonna cry more fuckwit? Do it cry more!

              2. ” I am QUITE sure that a LOT of “tolerant” liberal-type folks at Google etc. would NOT be happy with the types of things I wrote! ”

                No, they strike me as the kind of people who would under mental illness.

              3. Hahaha, you got your ass handed to you hard, spastic.
                Itzky sent you running back to your retard spam. What a fucking twit you are.

                1. All you crybabies can ask Google for your money back… If they made you promises AND YOU PAID THEM MONEY, and they did NOT deliver PER A CONTRACT, you can sue in court like anyone else! Otherwise, cry me a river, whiners!

                  (None of you crybabies got ripped off of a DIME, did you?)

            2. Half the shit on that list are Google’s own products.

              1. No, like 3/4 of that list are products Google developed themselves and then later killed.

                The other 1/4 are products *sold to Google* that Google later killed.

                1. None of them are products killed by regulations that Google has sponsored/pushed.

            3. Those are their own products they discontinued LMAO. Talk about a self own

        2. Let’s assume that didn’t happen. You think they’d have been run out of business?

          1. “Let’s assume that didn’t happen”

            If we assume a spherical sarcasmics mom…

            1. Sarcasmic A, is drinking seven 350ml bottles per hour (bph), of MD 20/20 at 18% alc. by volume.
              At the same time Sarcasmic B, is drinking five 500ml bph, of Cisco Strawberry at 17.5% alc. by volume.

              Using your calculator, can you figure out which one will start shitposting on Reason first?

              1. Finish the problem…

                So if Sarcasmic A staggers back towards the computer room, and Sarcasmic B somehow gets to the wrong door, and falls off the porch into the dog kennel…which one gets shit on first?

        3. Get bent.

        4. No they didn’t.

          In fact, the greatest threat to Google’s new products is Google itself – pretty much everything they do that gets popular then gets axed by them.

    2. Yes and yes.

  3. Google is an evil privacy violating soul sucking demon. They are tracking your every move and have no problem giving that information to others. You aren’t getting it for free you’re giving up data and privacy for them to sell.

    Sorry hope they like Facebook and twitter get busted.

    1. Kulaks, wreckers, and all other enemies of the Trumpist State must be PUNISHED!!! To Hell with freedom and the rule of law, and property rights… PUNISHING our enemies is the be-all and end-all!!!

      Right?!?!? (Never mind that the powers that we add to the Trumpist State, will soon be wielded by Der BidenFuhrer. TrumpTurds are too stupid and short-sighted to parse that logic).

    2. Google products, like Microsoft products, save me more time, more effort and more labor every single day than I care to even contemplate.

      I’m guessing that, like Microsoft before it, Google will spend nine to ten figures on legal defense before ending up settling to a fig-leaf consent decree.

      But even if they get broken up, then just like Standard Oil and AT&T before them, the sum of the parts will end up being more powerful, more pervasive, and far more valuable to shareholders than they ever were before.

      The economics of the business won’t change for decades to come, no matter how much Congresscritters want it to. Unless Google pulls a Yahoo!, they will continue to dominate.

      1. “Google products, like Microsoft products, save me more time, more effort and more labor every single day than I care to even contemplate.

        I’m guessing”

        Based on your own stated bias, which is useful I’m sure.

    3. This 100%. Libertarians of all people should understand there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. But apparently it’s free as long as Google and Facebook are catering it.

      As recently as 20 years ago, Internet companies wrestled with privacy policies and such. Not because the issues were new. Stuff dates back to at least the 1970’s laws allowing access to credit reports and certainly to the 1980 OECD guidelines on transfer of personal data across borders. But because the EXCHANGE of personal data for something paid for by advertisers was so explicit and new. And there was a notion that that exchange requires some level of informed consent.

      There is no more informed consent. And in truth Google and other tech companies in Silicon Valley have done everything they can to eliminate privacy altogether. So the exchange no longer exists because privacy no longer exists. The stuff paid for by advertisers is now a free lunch.

      1. I do not see why libertarians would support massive companies, which are way more willing to work with the government to stomp on people, instead of far more atomized industries where there are too many companies for regulatory capture to be a big problem

    4. What? Why would they give away the information to others? You have absolutely no idea what Google does, do you?

  4. “Though that complaint was filed by the Trump administration, its reasoning sounded more suited to the left”

    That’s more evidence of the political realignment I’ve been describing for the past few years. Sure, decades ago, the left probably did represent “the little guy” in his battle against “the rich” and “big business.” So it’s understandable that libertarians of, say, the 1980s would be reluctant to embrace leftists or Democrats.

    But now? The modern left is explicitly on the same side as the wealthy and powerful. Self-described socialists like AOC and Bernie Sanders just voted for the Presidential candidate backed by billionaires and Wall Street. Meanwhile “populism” — that revolting ideology of opposition to Charles Koch’s interests — is confined to an increasingly irrelevant Republican Party.

    #VoteDemocratToHelpBillionaires
    #VoteDemocratToHelpCorporations

  5. >hones in on

    Inability to understand and use basic English is always a good way to start things off.

  6. Sure am glad Reason put Boehm on presenting such a vast and complicated legal and societal issue.

    He’s just the sort of lightweight we’ve come to expect around here.

  7. So Google was broken up, I would be hurt as a consumer because (1) I’d have to manually type in ‘www.google.com’ on browser or smart phone, and (2) Google prioritized search result won’t pop up first. Wow.

    Big tech’s “bigness” goes beyond their huge market share. I wouldn’t care if Marvel films accounted for 90% of all movie revenue, or that Hollywood is ideologically singular. Marvel films don’t spy, track and personal info of everyone watching their films.

    1. You can change your default search engine at any time you want.

      You do not have to use Chrome (or Edge or whatever the fuck the Appletards use) – there are multiple *good* browser competitors (sadly, the search competitors, even DDG, simply aren’t as good).

      If the issue is bundling browsers and search engines . . . is that justification for using government force?

    2. It is “old school”, but you could set your “home page” in settings to anything you want, including google.com.

      The information google gathers about you is maybe 1% because you use their search engine. Google analytics is embedded everywhere. Those facebook icons report your activity everywhere, even if you do not click on them.

  8. In light of Reason’s rage against VISA and Mastercard’s actions vis-a-vis Pornhub, I find their sudden urging for the laissez-faire treatment of uber-corporatist Google, to be pretty hypocritical.

    I suppose “it’s only bad when our sacred cow gets gored”.

    1. The former is performative outrage, harmless to the targets, and worthless to the ostensible victims, while giving the appearance of some ideological credibility.

      The latter is simply a hill their techlord paymasters have sent them to defend.

    2. In both cases, Reason defends owners of property rights against arbitrary exercises of Government Almighty powers. VISA and Mastercard act thusly, only because of Government Almighty threats. It’s not because Pornhub’s money isn’t green enough.
      Momma, on the udder (and udderly absurd) hand, urges that ALL actors that are arbitrarily described by Momma as “uber-corporatists”, should be BODY SLAMMED up against the wall, and PUNISHED, because Momma has a YUUUGE punishment boner!!!

    3. The problem is the government (you know, the bad guys) strong armed the credit card companies into that. They did not do that voluntarily on their own initiative.

      It’s not laissez-faire when the mob threatens to break your kneecaps.

      1. It wasn’t the government who strong-armed MasterCard and Visa, it was a bunch of special interest groups and virtue signaling executives.
        Exactly like with Google, Facebook and Twitter’s recent censorship campaigns.

      2. And the Google thing is people wanting the government to strongarm Google. Like the only difference is we’re still in the ‘select the next target’ phase of government violence.

    4. Reason loves censorship when Google does it.

    5. They don’t want to be demonetized

  9. So what the heck does breaking up Google mean? Will each state get its own Google? Will Oregon and Idaho be able to share a Google? Will there be rules against VPN tools allowing users to access the Google of their choice?

    This isn’t Ma Bell with physical copper wires. Breaking up Google makes little sense. Unless they just want GMail to be a different company than Google Earth. Doesn’t seem like a huge problem that.

    1. Doesn’t seem like a huge problem that.

      Other than the costs to set up. It still won’t solve the issues though.

      And Google is actually multiple companies already under the umbrella of the Alphabet corporation.

  10. There is only one real monopoly in the country – the Federal government. It should be broken up if the anti-trust laws mean anything.

  11. Sleepy Joe will fix all this.

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  13. A monopoly isn’t so bad when it’s free and everyone else sucks.

  14. “If the lawsuit were to succeed, it would hurt the people it seeks to help.”

    Fuckers can learn to code. In HTML.

  15. There are no “consumers” when it comes to Google. Google’s users are the consumed.

    If you’re not a progressive-religion true believer Google hates you and wishes you harm.

    1. Well if you look the founders and current senior folks there they tend to have the same socialist Russia/Central Europe pipeline that has been pumping cultural marxists into our great Republic for over a 100 years..

  16. The issue with Google isn’t the search engine but their services around their “digital bulletin” board (Youtube) and they active censoring of the right. Simply they can’t pick and choose as a seller who they do business with if the business can “pay” and if the service is free…well you get the point. Free speech with NO Google censors is the law per the Civil Rights Act of 64 and the Bill of Rights. Just say all social media firms can’t ban any speech and we are all set…but they are acting like soverign countries which they are not..present they are a threat to the Republic and should be treated as such.

    1. There’s the rightwing grievance angle.

      Nobody’s banning any viewpoints. YouTube is a cesspool of rightwing opinion, much like the rest of the internet. It’s a private company, it can be that if it wants to be. It can also ban liars and outright Nazis.

      1. Nobody’s banning any viewpoints.

        Didn’t you rant about how you wanted to ban Christianity yesterday?

      2. Uh, Tony, you are way wrong here.

        YouTube is banning lots of viewpoints. There just isn’t a single ‘targeting the right’ thing going on. They’re quite comfortable censoring those on the left who don’t fully embrace the current ‘official’ orthodoxy in many areas (such as transgender stuff).

        Its a private company

        So is your phone company. Would you be ok with the phone company monitoring your calls and censoring them? Even removing your ability to make calls?

        1. And its disingenuous for you to pull the ‘its a private company and they can do what they want line’ – when you’ve been perfectly fine with compelled actions by private companies in the past.

          Bake that cake! That’s been fine with you.

          1. I’m not the one being a hypocrite. I haven’t expressed an opinion on what the US federal government should force YouTube to do. You have though, apparently. And that thing is to compel it to offer a platform to people it disagrees with or finds dangerous. I’m just approaching it from a libertarian angle here, and, in terms of excuses you’re making for wanting the US federal government to force a private company to violate its own conscience, I find the fact that you have a personal grievance here wanting.

            1. You did express an opinion about what YouTube *can* do –

              can also ban liars and outright Nazis.

              Just as you expressed an opinion about what bakers can do – they can shut the fuck up and bake that cake.

              That’s your hypocrisy.

              1. I think cake shops should be able to kick out Nazis too.

      3. It’s a private company, it can be that if it wants to be.

        And it should face the same legal liabilities as other private companies. It’s you who has a problem with treating Google like other private companies.

      4. >Nobody’s banning any viewpoints. … It can also ban liars and outright Nazis.

        That’s known as “talking out of two sides of your mouth”.
        And they can ban “liars”, OK. Who gets to decide whom is a liar and whom isn’t? So far, it’s been Google. And I don’t trust their judgement.

        1. Why would you trust Google anyway?

          The first amendment doesn’t apply to company policies. If you want to make new law where the government can compel private companies to platform speech they disagree with, that’s certainly a fun can of worms we can open.

  17. We suddenly care about only the economics of every issue?

    Google lies about their behavior. Fuck em. Demand better.

  18. Knowledge is power and the money is on misinformation.

    Search engines have been corrupted such that the uncomfortable truth is hidden behind prohibitive volumes of misdirection.

  19. Being a monopoly is not inherently bad, but “anticompetitive behavior” is bad if one of your main ethical principles is that we should all be subjected to a free market because market competition evolves a better quality of life. Of course, maybe a monopoly gives us a better life in the here and now. In the end we’ll all be dead.

    But Google being monopoly-like is hardly its worst abuse. I think all the privacy invasion that is perfectly legal is a bigger problem.

    One thing to keep in mind is that your complacency with whatever the corporation is doing (because free marketers so often get lazy and just say whatever big corporations are doing is by definition OK) may cause you to miss the fact that it’s only via a very flawed set of laws that has turned us all into individual data profiles that we give away for free to private interests.

    For that matter, it’s only because of a stupid legal arrangement that the internet sucks so bad right now and you can’t read an article without being pop-upped to death.

    We invented the internet, so we can make it run by whatever rules we think are useful. Government is a tool. Give it up and you are just letting others use it against you.

    1. Shorter Tony: “It’s only okay if we do it.”

      1. Yes. We being “people who believe in science.”

        1. So, not Democrats then?

          1. Also, like, do you *read* what you write?

            Because not even scientists ‘believe in science’.

            1. They believe it works.

              1. They believe the scientific method is useful.

                Again – ‘works’ in science is very conditional.

                1. Missing from this pedantry is an acknowledgment that I’m talking about how government tends to work poorly when people who believe the scientific method is witchcraft control it.

        2. Yup, that’s your problem: you “believe in science”, just like other people “believe in the Easter bunny”.

    2. Now, take that post and replace ‘corporation’ with ‘government’ and ask yourself why its different.

      1. Nobody is complacent about what government is doing.

        1. You are it’s your entire persona.

          1. I long for a time when we can be complacent because it’s doing it’s job instead of trying not to collapse thanks to the insane chaos of the tweet monster.

        2. Obama/Biden and their administration were responsible for massive violations of the privacy of Americans. You advocated putting the same a–holes back in charge. So you certainly are either complacent about privacy violations and other abuses by government, or you actively favor them.

        3. Ah, I see then. You’re not ‘complacent’ – you’re just certain that giving the government ever more power will not lead to *you* being targeted at all.

          You’re ‘one of the good ones. You’re an ‘ally’. Why would they ever go after gay men, after all – you’re an oppressed LGBT!

          Just like they’d never go after the Asians – until they became too successful.

          1. I have no problem incorporating the dangers of corporate power into my political worldview. It’s just when libertarians finally decide to chime in on the matter it’s when the corporations are deplatforming Nazis. Like geez welcome to the labor movement I guess.

            1. If the left didn’t call anyone who disagreed with them a Nazi, then it wouldn’t appear as if the only people being deplatformed are Nazis.

    3. I think all the privacy invasion that is perfectly legal is a bigger problem.

      Yes, courtesy of Obama, his administration, and the three letter agencies. I.e. courtesy of the very people you want to see in charge.

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  21. AMAZING! I just tried to read an article against Google and it would not let me log in to Reason.com repeatedly. I suddenly needed a Face ID WHICH I HAVE NEVER needed before. If anyone needs help on their lawsuit, look me up. Incredible!

    1. Call 1 800 REASONZ and ask for Billy.

  22. Not a good move i guess. it will hurt the Digital Marketing Agency real bad

  23. But Google achieved search dominance before it established those partnerships

    Google achieved search dominance by hiring and buying up any possible competitor, and through misguided US federal government policies.

    If Google disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, little of value would be lost.

    1. You are completely full of shit. Google’s founders came up with a better search algorithm in the 90s and no one has been able to catch up with them since.

      Google is also massive contributor to open source. What they give away is absolutely astounding. Most companies doing machine learning right now couldn’t do it without the free tools and research Google has given away.

  24. Google is more than just a search engine. They also own and produce YouTube, the Android operating system, gmail, Google maps, Chromebooks. I’m sure I’m missing a few big things too. On top of that, they control more advertising reach than anyone else in the world. They have a nakedly political bias which infects all these things, not just indexing results in the search engine, but removing videos, etc. This is just too much power in the hands of anyone.

    1. So we give more power to the government?

      The government has millions of people under arms, can put restrictions on you, can lock you in a cage, takes your money, etc.

      So we’re going to give *them* more power because we’re worried about Google?

      1. Google is government.
        More specifically, Google is The Party

      2. I don’t think you understand how anti-trust works. The government doesn’t take over the industries in question. Instead, they break them into smaller pieces and sell them to private parties.

  25. Google is small potatoes.

    In 2009 Obama’s FCC replaced all the senior executives at Comcast.

    Comcast has in the past 10 years become the US National government mouthpiece. The execs are arguing today to become the first mandatory national utility in the USA and Britain.

    Comcast makes so much money in federal subsidies, your payment no longer matters nor does customer service. Comcast works for the feds and gets paid no matter what… by your tax dollars.

    Google is small potatoes. Comcast is the 900 lb gorilla that needs to be divested.

    1. Comcast has 190,000 employees, far more that GOOGLE, and gets far more in Government money. You are right, GOOGLE is not that big of a deal. Whenever a provider of anything gets a good deal with the Federal Government, they know they can charge whatever they want.

  26. Let’s cripple our successful American businesses so Chinese ones can take over instead! More great ideas from our political class and the useful idiots that support them.

    1. Yea I would hate for China to have any control over our beloved American businesses like the NBA and Disney.

  27. Not a good move we guess. it will hurt the Digital Marketing Agencyreal bad

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