Google Fights DOJ-Led Antitrust Suit as Leaked Details Drag In Facebook

Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Not 24 hours out from mounting its defense to one of three federal antitrust suits it faces, Google was thrust in the headlines Tuesday upon the leak of a draft version of the suit in Texas that accuses the search engine of secret dealings with Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal first broke the story this morning, saying it had reviewed an unredacted version of the antitrust suit that 10 states filed against Google last week in Sherman, Texas.

According to the report, parts of the complaint that appear with redactions in the final version show allegations that the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary made a deal with Facebook to funnel ad revenue to the site, in return for Facebook agreeing not to create a competitive search engine.

The two multibillion-dollar companies also agreed to defend one another in responding to an antitrust probe, according to the draft complaint, which says their operation was code-named “Jedi Blue,” an apparent reference to the Star Wars film franchise.

Facebook is not a party to any of the three suits Google faces, though Texas is the lead plaintiff in one and a co-plaintiff in another, filed two months ago in Washington by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The third suit came last week as well in Washington, with 35 states, Puerto Rico, the territory of Guam and the District of Columbia leading the charge.

Google filed its response to the October case Monday, making one concession in the entire 42-page brief: “Google admits that it was founded in a Menlo Park Garage 22 years ago and that it created an innovative way to search the internet.” The case is expected to be argued in 2023. 

“People use Google Search because they choose to, not because they are forced to or because they cannot easily find alternative ways to search for information on the internet,” the filing states. 

Going through the government’s suit paragraph by paragraph, the company admits it has agreed with various electronic device manufactures to place “certain Google apps on devices’ system partitions and default home screen for out-of-the-box settings,” but it denies how those agreements are characterized.

“Google’s mission has been to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” the filing states.

Insisting that its actions to preemptively install Google search engines on mobile devices was “procompetitive and carried out in Google’s legitimate business interests,” Google accuses the Justice Department of having failed to even state a claim for relief.

It says that the government’s bid to cure anticompetitive harms along with enjoining Google from any other anticompetitive practices is unworkable.

Back in October, Attorney General Bill Barr framed the suit as the cumulation of a 16-month investigation where the government explored all avenues of Google’s restrictive monopoly.

“This lack of competition harms users, advertisers and small businesses in the form of fewer choices, reduced quality (including on metrics like privacy), higher advertising prices and less innovation,” Barr said in a statement. 

Attorneys for Google at Williams & Connolly did not return a request for comment Tuesday, nor did the Justice Department.

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