Google Has 'Durable Monopoly' In Search, Justice Department Argues

Google is the “gatekeeper of the internet,” with “a durable monopoly” in search, the Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general contend in newly unsealed court papers.

“Google cements its monopolies through exclusionary distribution agreements that steer billions of search queries to Google each day,” the government argues, adding that the agreements “are particularly pernicious in general search, where having more users fuels a feedback loop that affects a search engine’s quality and competitiveness.”

The papers, filed with U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in the District of Columbia, come in response to Google's request for summary judgment -- meaning judgment in its favor, before trial -- in antitrust lawsuits brought by federal and state officials.

The lawsuits, brought in late 2020, include claims that Google obtained dominance in search by arranging to be the default search engine in Mozilla's Firefox browser and Apple's Safari browser, and by arranging to have its search engine pre-installed on Android smartphones.

Google argued in a recent request for summary judgment that its agreements with Mozilla and Apple are not anti-competitive for several reasons, including that the deals don't prevent consumers from using other search engines.

The Justice Department and states counter in their new papers that default settings have an “enormous impact” in driving traffic to search engines.

“Being the default search engine on a preinstalled and prominently placed app is by far the most efficient and effective way for a general search engine to reach users,” attorneys for the government argue in a legal filing that was made available to the public on Thursday.

They say they intend to prove at trial that “many users stick with a device's search defaults,” even though most devices allow people to change those settings.

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