Pressing his bid to prevent Google from prioritizing its services in the search results, Ohio's attorney general is urging a state court judge to say the company's search engine is considered a “common carrier” service.
“Google -- the general search engine on which an overwhelming portion of the population relies every day for decision-critical information -- satisfies every element of the common carrier test under Ohio law,” Attorney General David Yost writes in papers made available late Thursday.
Yost specifically argues that Google meets the definition of common carrier because it's available to all web users, garners ad revenue by transporting “goods” -- meaning information -- and provides services of public concern.
His papers come in a lawsuit he brought in June 2021, when he claimed Google should be regulated as a common carrier -- and prohibited from giving its own services or products preferential treatment in the search results -- because it dominates the online search market.
Yost alleged in the complaint that Google touts its own products in the search results, and pointed to a study that says around 65% of searches on Google desktop and mobile ended without clicks to a different company.
Google previously said that study relied on faulty methodology, arguing the authors didn't take into account that people sometimes seek factual information, such as currency conversions or weather forecasts, as opposed to links to other companies.
Last year Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge James Schuck ruled that Yost could attempt to prove that Google Search is a common carrier, but also said it's not clear what impact that classification would have on the company.
Google and Yost each filed papers in late January seeking summary judgment, but Yost's papers were kept under seal until Thursday.
Google argued in its motion that it doesn't meet Ohio's definition of common carrier -- in part because it doesn't “transport” or “carry” people or their property.
“Google Search's business is to create its own product: in response to each individual user's query, it curates information and fashions a bespoke search results page,” the company wrote.
Yost counters in his bid for summary judgment that the information Google transmits should be considered a form of property.
“Information is not a physical good, but it is undoubtedly a good -- a thing of value -- that users rely upon Google to transport to them,” he contends.
Google and Yost are expected to file additional arguments by February 23. The case is scheduled to go to trial in September, unless Schuck makes a decision before then based on the written papers.