Justice News

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks on Lawsuit Against Google for Monopolizing Digital Advertising Technologies
Washington, DC
United States
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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Good afternoon.

Unfortunately, I am going to begin my remarks today just as I did yesterday: offering my condolences to the families of the victims of yet another mass shooting in our country.

All of us at the Justice Department, including the FBI and ATF, will continue to support the Half Moon Bay community in the difficult days ahead. And as I said yesterday, the Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to protect our communities from the gun violence that is leaving no community in this country untouched.

Today, the Department of Justice, joined by eight states, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Google.

We allege that Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.

These technologies, which are known as “ad tech,” automate advertising sales by website publishers to online advertisers.

When an internet user opens a webpage that has ad space to sell, ad tech tools almost instantly match the website publisher with an advertiser looking to promote its products or services to the website's user.  

This product and process typically involves the use of an automated advertising exchange. This exchange runs a high-speed auction designed to identify the best match between a publisher selling internet ad space and advertisers looking to buy it.

As alleged in our complaint, for 15 years, Google has pursued a course of anticompetitive conduct that has allowed it to halt the rise of rival technologies, manipulate auction mechanics to insulate itself from competition, and force advertisers and publishers to use its tools.

In so doing, Google has engaged in exclusionary conduct to severely weaken, if not destroy, competition in the ad tech industry.

As detailed in our complaint, we allege that Google's anticompetitive conduct extends to three significant elements of the digital ad buying process.

First, Google controls the technology used by nearly every major website publisher to offer advertising space for sale.

Second, Google controls the leading tool used by advertisers to buy that advertising space.

And, third, Google controls the largest ad exchange that matches publishers and advertisers together each time that ad space is sold.

As a result of this scheme, website creators earn less, and advertisers pay more. That means fewer publishers are able to offer internet users content without subscriptions, paywalls, or other forms of monetization.

Our complaint alleges that Google has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by:

Monopolizing the market for the technology used by publishers to offer ads on their websites;

Monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the ad exchange market; and

Monopolizing the market for the ad network technology advertisers use to buy digital advertising space.  

Our complaint also alleges that Google has unlawfully tied its ad exchange and its publisher ad server, in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. And finally, we allege that the United States, as an advertiser, has incurred damages by reason of Google's violations of the antitrust laws. 

In addition to declaratory relief, our complaint seeks damages and the divestiture of certain Google ad tech products. It also seeks an injunction preventing Google from continuing to engage in the anticompetitive practices described in the complaint, and any other practices with the same purpose and effect as the challenged practices.

I am grateful to Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki, and the attorneys and staff of the Antitrust Division for their tireless work on this case.

Monopolies threaten the free and fair markets upon which our economy is based. They stifle innovation, they hurt producers and workers, and they increase costs for consumers.

Today's complaint is only the latest example of the Department's work to challenge antitrust violations that undermine competition and harm the American people.

No matter the industry and no matter the company, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce our antitrust laws. We will aggressively protect consumers, safeguard competition, and work to ensure economic fairness and opportunity for all.

I will now turn the podium over to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

Updated January 24, 2023