Google under fire in antitrust probe; here’s why it matters to Florida

by | Oct 4, 2023

  • A major antitrust case against Google is underway in federal district court, with the Department of Justice alleging anti-competitive behavior in Google’s agreements to be the default search engine on various platforms.
  • Google contends that its dominance is due to consumer choice, not unfair practices, sparking a debate on competition in the tech industry.
  • Florida officials, like Attorney General Ashley Moody and Governor Ron DeSantis, have been vocal about Google’s alleged monopolistic behavior and content policing by major internet companies.
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s testimony highlights the intense rivalry between Microsoft and Google, drawing global attention to the case.
  • The verdict could impact how Floridians interact with search engines, e-commerce platforms, and social media, with potential consequences for future state actions against Big Tech companies.

With all the other political hullabaloo going on in Washington D.C., most people haven’t noticed a major legal case coming to a slow boil in federal district court. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust case against Google began last month, with the internet search giant defending its core business – and the reverberations are being felt in Florida, a state where the battle over Big Tech’s influence has been raging for some time now. The case against Google has the potential to reshape the way consumers use the internet, and how tech giants operate. And it’s an issue that Florida officials, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, have been vocal about since 2021.

The Core of the Case

The Biden Administration’s DOJ is aiming to prove that Google’s agreements with other tech providers to be the default search engine on various platforms, ranging from mobile devices like the iPhone to web browsers like Safari, are anti-competitive and harmful to consumers. But Google contends their dominance is not a case of unfair business practices, but rather a direct result of consumer choice due to the convenience that Google offers.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta previously tossed out some allegations against Google for lacking legal merit but did allow the antitrust case to proceed. The case has opened up a debate about the nature of competition in the tech industry, with opinions divided on whether Google’s tactics harm consumers or just its competitors.

Matt Schruers, President of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, of which Google is a member, defended the search company, noting that the accusations against Google have nothing to do with limiting consumer choices, and everything to do with the choices of competitors.

“While there will be lots of noise around this case, at the end of the trial, this will be decided on the facts and the law. None of the practices on trial have blocked consumers from products.”

Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President & General Counsel, echoed a similar sentiment: “The DOJ’s claims in the lawsuit are not backed by facts or evidence of consumer harm. If the DOJ wins in this case against Google, we [consumers] will pay more, get lower quality services and have less choice and power in the marketplace.”

A Florida Connection

Florida’s interest in this issue – aside from how we all will experience the internet as a whole – isn’t new. Attorney General Ashley Moody lashed out at Google in 2021 for what she alleged was monopolistic behavior and anti-competitive agreements, particularly in online-display advertising.

“Google knowingly and willingly monopolized the products and services used by advertisers in online-display advertising,” Moody said in 2021. She also pointed out how Google’s actions have had a detrimental effect on Floridians who use the search engine daily.

Meanwhile, Florida Republicans, led by Governor Ron DeSantis, have been vocal in their opposition to heavy-handed content policing by major internet companies like Google, which owns Youtube. The video service came under fire during the COVID-19 pandemic for restricting the ability of some people to post videos. But those practices are just symptoms of the larger challenge that large tech companies are facing as they attempt to walk a legal tightrope over the question of whether or not some internet platforms are publishers of original content or curators of public content.

The anti-trust case brought by DOJ, though, can be viewed as an amalgamation of thorny legal questions that have arisen directly out of Google’s rise to internet dominance.

High-Profile Testimonies and International Attention

Today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella testified that even his tech giant found it challenging to compete with Google. He said the internet is essentially the “Google web,” and raised concerns about Google leveraging its scale to dominate emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Nadella’s testimony brought to the forefront the intense rivalry between Microsoft and Google, which has implications for the future of tech and consumer choices.

The case is attracting global attention as regulators worldwide scrutinize the power wielded by Big Tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta. It also comes on the heels of antitrust lawsuits against other tech giants, including Amazon and Meta, by the Federal Trade Commission.

Why It Matters

While the broader antitrust case has national implications, Floridians have a specific stake in the matter. The state has been actively engaged in a controversial “crackdown” on what it calls Big Tech monopolies, spearheaded by actions from Moody and DeSantis. But many conservatives have questioned the crackdowns and allegations leveled by state officials because they appear to infringe on the constitutional rights of private companies to regulate their own “speech,” which includes deciding which videos can be published.

As the case proceeds, the verdict could have significant consequences for how Floridians interact with search engines, e-commerce platforms, and social media. The case could also influence future actions by the state to regulate or litigate against Big Tech companies that are perceived to be acting against the interests of Floridians.

The 10-week trial continues to be closely watched as both a litmus test for the U.S. government’s ability to rein in Silicon Valley and for its potential to affect internet users everywhere, including the Sunshine State.


%d bloggers like this: