A leaked draft of an antitrust suit against Google provides more details to support accusations that the internet search giant harmed publishers. A senior employee at the company said its software to
help websites sell digital advertising space "generates suboptimal yields for publishers and serious risks of negative media coverage," The Wall Street Journal reported
Keach Hagey viewed a version of the complaint without the blacked-out redactions in the public filing, gaining greater insights into the international communications among Google employees. Ten state
attorneys general on Dec. 16 sued Google in U.S. District Court in Texas
, accusing the company of
overcharging publishers and abusing its power in advertising.
“Google employees agreed that, in the future, they should not directly lie to publishers,”
according to the complaint. The redacted version doesn't share more details about how Google's employees allegedly expressed misgivings over what they told publishers about its ad-serving
That software is a key target for the antitrust suit, which claims publishers were harmed when Google's method of "dynamic allocation" of online bids for digital ad
space drove down prices.
“Google knew that dynamic allocation prevented competition among exchanges and did not maximize publisher revenue,” according to the
The complaint also alleges Google attempted to thwart "header bidding," which lets publishers offer ad space on multiple online exchanges and accept the highest bid.
Instead of participating in header bidding, Google was given a "last look" to outbid other exchanges by a penny, according to the suit.
Google in 2017 said it wouldn't get a
last look any longer, but the lawsuit claims the company adopted a new way to "jump ahead of rival exchange bids" with a program called "Exchange Bidding." Google not only charged a 5% fee on ad space
publishers sold on another exchange, but "made it so Google’s AdX exchange won publishers’ inventory even over another exchange’s much higher bid," according to the suit.
The WSJ reported Google executives described their efforts to undermine header bidding and push publishers back onto their ad server as the "holy jrail," a phrase that
doesn't appear in the redacted version of the lawsuit. The complaint also alleges that Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages, a technology to help web pages load faster on smartphones, also undermined
header bidding to the detriment of publishers. Google has denied the allegations in the lawsuit.
The case will continue to be closely watched by the publishing industry, which
has fretted that the online marketplace for digital advertising lacks transparency, allegedly giving Google an unfair advantage.