US federal government scrutiny of Google’s digital advertising operations dates back to the Trump administration.
The US Department of Justice is preparing to sue Google as early as next month, people familiar with the matter say, ending years of work to build a case that the Alphabet Inc. unit illegally dominates the digital advertising market .
Lawyers for the DOJ’s antitrust division are interviewing publishers in another round of interviews to update the facts and glean additional details for the complaint, said three people familiar with the conversations who asked not to be named to discuss the issue. an ongoing investigation.
Some of the interviews have already taken place and more are scheduled for the coming weeks, two of the people said. They rely on previous interviews conducted during an earlier stage of the long-running investigation, the sources said.
An ad tech lawsuit, which Bloomberg said was pending last year, would mark the DOJ’s second case against Google following the government’s 2020 lawsuit alleging the tech titan dominates the ad tech market. online research in violation of antitrust laws.
It remains unclear whether prosecutors will file the case in federal court in Washington, where the research case is pending, or in New York, where state attorneys general have their own antitrust case related to tech activities. ad from Google, the people said.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
“Our ad technologies help websites and apps fund their content and enable small businesses to reach customers around the world,” Google spokesman Peter Schottenfels said. “The enormous competition in online advertising has made online advertisements more relevant, reduced advertising technology costs, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”
The DOJ’s ad tech investigation is an example of the federal government’s push to rein in America’s biggest tech platforms after nearly a decade in which regulators took little or no action . The Federal Trade Commission sued Meta Platforms Inc. for forcing it to sell Instagram and WhatsApp and is investigating Amazon.com Inc. for its control of online retail.
Apple Inc. is also under investigation by the Department of Justice over its tight control over the App Store. These types of investigations are difficult, taking years to prepare and resolve, as they move from investigation to litigation and appeals.
Federal control of Google’s digital advertising operations dates back to the Trump administration. Then-Attorney General William Barr sued the Mountain View, Calif.-based company over its research activity, alleging the company used exclusive distribution agreements with cellphone carriers and cellphone manufacturers. phones to block competition.
In December 2020, attorneys general from 16 states and Puerto Rico also sued Google for allegedly monopolizing the online digital advertising market. The lawsuit alleges that Google entered into an illegal agreement with Meta to manipulate online auctions where advertisers and website publishers buy and sell ad space. Meta is not accused of wrongdoing in the states lawsuit, although regulators in the UK and Europe have opened an investigation into the two companies over the deal, dubbed Jedi Blue.
Google denies the allegations and has asked a federal judge to dismiss the states complaint. A hearing on that request is scheduled for later this month.
The search giant is the biggest player in online display ads, which help fund news, sports and entertainment websites. The company has tools that help websites sell ads, tools that help advertisers buy space, and the most widely used platform where online ad auctions take place.
Google controlled about 28.6% of the $211.2 billion in digital ad spend in the United States last year, according to eMarketer, while Facebook accounted for 23.8% and Amazon 11.6%.