by Gloria Yao ’24
Published Nov. 21st, 2020
The case of Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, which occurred in 1911, focused on whether or not John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil had a monopoly over the gas industry. In that decision, Standard Oil was forced to be disbanded into smaller firms.
A similar situation is happening 109 years later. Google is under fire for antitrust behaviors.
In a statement to the press, United States Attorney General William Barr said, “Over the course of the last 16 months, the Antitrust Division collected convincing evidence that Google no longer competes only on the merits but instead uses its monopoly power– and billions in monopoly profits –to lock up key pathways to search on mobile phones, browsers, and next generation devices, depriving rivals of distribution and scale. The end result is that no one can feasibly challenge Google’s dominance in search and search advertising.”
Despite the accusations, Google claims that it has benefited billions of its consumers. In a statement to the press, a Google spokesperson stated, “‘Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed… People use Google because they choose to— not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.’”
According to The Guardian, “Google’s lawsuit marks the biggest antitrust case in a generation, comparable to the lawsuit against Microsoft filed in 1998 and the 1974 case against AT&T, which led to the breakup of the Bell System.”
The government argues that even though Google’s search service is free, its extreme dominance among search engines could result in less competition in the market, leading to less innovation and fewer consumer choices. Google’s dominance may also close the market to rivals that collect less data for advertising than Google does.
One of these rivals is Ecosia, a company that donates 80% of its profits to global nonprofits focused on reforestation. According to Christian Kroll, the CEO of Ecosia, “‘Ethical options like Ecosia aren’t up against a normal competitor… They’re up against one of the most dominant players in today’s global economy, who in the absence of effective regulation has been able to abuse its position in multiple markets around the world.’”
However, until the Justice Department and Google reconcile and come up with a solution, it looks like the tech giant is going to be dealing with this case for a long time.