The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google’s parent company Alphabet for using “illegal means” to keep its monopoly power.
The lawsuit is set to be the biggest in almost two decades and has drawn comparisons to a 1974 case against AT&T, which – after a six-year legal battle – was forced to divest its subsidiaries into individual companies.
The last comparable antitrust lawsuit was filed against Microsoft in 1998, which Reuters said cleared the way for “the explosive growth of the internet” as the scrutiny the company received prevented it from thwarting the competition.
Google has not responded to the charges, brought by the Department of Justice and 11 states, which include “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services”.
The complaint against the company states: “Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone.
“The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet, and one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, with a market value of $ 1 trillion and annual revenue exceeding $ 160 billion.
“For many years, Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising – the cornerstones of its empire.”
“Google is now the unchallenged gateway to the internet for billions of users worldwide,” the report adds of the company whose name had become a by-word for web searches.
“As a consequence, countless advertisers must pay a toll to Google’s search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies; American consumers are forced to accept Google’s policies, privacy practices, and use of personal data; and new companies with innovative business models cannot emerge from Google’s long shadow.
“For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy, the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.”
The lawsuit marks a rare topic which has bipartisan support between the Trump administration and the Democrats.
All of the 11 states’ attorneys general are Republicans, but the move was also praised by progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who had previously tweeted that she wanted “swift, aggressive action” to “#BreakUpBigTech”.
However it also comes weeks before the US election and, according to Reuters, could be seen as a political gesture by Donald Trump who has often accused the large technology companies of suppressing conservative views.
Separate lawsuits are also expected into Google’s broader business outside of search, including its digital advertising businesses.