Google’s Antitrust Case: Questions and Answers

How Google responded: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” wrote Kent Walker, the company’s chief legal officer, in a lengthy blog post.

What others are thinking: “Some might try to characterize today’s filing as a partisan vendetta by the Trump administration. That is the false narrative Google wants you to hear,” said Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at Yelp. “The case is clear — in fact, it could have gone further,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. Many other business leaders, policymakers and antitrust experts have weighed in.

Why now?

A better question might be, “This again?” The F.T.C. conducted a two-year antitrust investigation into Google under President Barack Obama, which went nowhere. Bill Barr, the attorney general, pushed hard to bring this new case before the election, but even if Democrats take the White House, experts say that it is unlikely to be withdrawn — some staff attorneys at the Justice Department have taken issue with how quickly it was filed, but they still consider the evidence solid. Critics argue that antitrust regulators rely on an outdated legal framework unsuited to deal with tech giants, but as these companies’ power has grown, so too has bipartisan unease.

How long will it take?

“This legal case is going to be loud, confusing and will most likely drag on for years,” writes The Times’s Shira Ovide. And a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from states including New York, Colorado and Iowa said yesterday that they would conclude their own probe into Google “in the coming weeks.” European antitrust regulators sued Google in 2015 based on similar facts, and settled in 2018. The U.S. Justice Department’s landmark antitrust case against Microsoft was filed in 1998 and settled in 2001.

Is this like the Microsoft case?

Yes, but not exactly. Google is charged with monopolizing search by using restrictive and exclusive deals, like Microsoft’s bundling of software programs with its operating system. Microsoft comes up a lot in the Google case, in fact: “Back then, Google claimed Microsoft’s practices were anticompetitive, and yet, now, Google deploys the same playbook to sustain its own monopolies,” the suit accuses.

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