September 12, 2023
In the current fevered media landscape, conservatives would be forgiven for missing the Google antitrust case, which is scheduled to go to trial in D.C. on Sept. 12. In ordinary times, the trial would likely be the ‘current thing’ for the media. These days, even the business-focused media has largely ignored it, which is a shame because the case is critically important.
The case was first filed by the Trump administration in 2020 but is being brought to trial by the Biden administration. This makes it one of the few nonpartisan, truly American products coming out of the DOJ these days. I have strong disagreements with the Biden DOJ on many fronts, but I agree with them on the need to prosecute this case against Google.
The case challenges Google’s business practices in the online search and search advertising markets, both of which the company has had a stranglehold upon for almost two decades. Because of Google’s gatekeeper role in these markets, many local newspaper publishers, along with conservative outlets, allege they have been shuttered as their advertising revenues were siphoned off and access was restricted by Google.
Additionally, Google’s search stranglehold has stymied competition and innovation online for decades. As the DOJ stated in 2020 when it announced the case,
“Twenty-five years ago, the Department of Justice sued Microsoft, paving the way for a new wave of innovative tech companies – including Google. The increased competition following the Microsoft case enabled Google to grow from a small start-up to an Internet behemoth. Unfortunately, once Google itself gained dominance, it resorted to the same anticompetitive playbook. If we let Google continue its anticompetitive ways, we will lose the next wave of innovators and Americans may never get to benefit from the ‘next Google.’ The time has come to restore competition to this vital industry.”
This should be a position that all Americans, regardless of partisanship, can rally around. After all, competition and innovation are as American as it gets.
The second reason conservatives should support the DOJ in the Google case is because, if the DOJ wins, it would hold Google accountable under federal antitrust law for the first time in the company’s history. The case should be an antitrust slam dunk if the court applies the antitrust law as drafted by Congress, but those laws have been radically rewritten by Members of Congress under influence of legal scholars and jurists in recent decades.
The third reason starts with a question: what if the DOJ loses, and Google is allowed to continue its alleged track record of censorship and tracking of those who don’t toe the party line? Does that mean that if Google is indeed liable for these unethical practices, it will be immune from consequences for the foreseeable future and won’t change its ways? Possibly.
One might argue that a potential loss would underscore the need for Congressional action to update the antitrust laws for the digital era. The Internet Accountability Project (IAP) spent much of the last Congress advocating for targeted updates to federal antitrust law toward this end. We fought the good fight and thanks to leaders in Congress, including Senator Grassley in the Senate and Rep. Ken Buck in the House, a strong coalition rallied around legislation aimed at curbing Big Tech’s monopoly power.
However, Big Tech spent a record-setting hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the legislation. One of the core arguments Big Tech deployed in its campaign to defeat the legislation was that “existing antitrust laws can rein in Big Tech.” The upcoming Google case will make clear whether this argument is a valid one.
If it is not, and Google prevails in the upcoming DOJ case, then expect to hear IAP and other conservative organizations renew our calls for legislation to rein in not just Google but also the other Big Tech platforms before it is too late.
Mike Davis is the founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization that opposes Big Tech and seeks to hold these companies accountable for their bad acts. He was previously chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA.
Unlike the Big Tech monopolies, the Internet Accountability Project pledges to never sell or share your personal information, which is your property.