March 2, 2021
Google's antitrust battles: Here's what you need to know

Google and Facebook agreed to team up in antitrust fight over ad tech, report says


Google headquarters in Mountain View, California

Stephen Shankland/CNET

New details are emerging about an alleged ad tech deal between Google and Facebook, including that the two tech giants reportedly agreed to “cooperate and assist one another” if their arrangement ever came under scrutiny. The new information comes from a report Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal, which said it reviewed an unredacted draft version of an antitrust lawsuit filed against Google last week.

A group of 10 states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a suit against Google on Wednesday accusing the company of anticompetitive practices in online advertising. The complaint alleges that Google struck an unlawful deal with Facebook to manipulate advertising auctions. The code name for the deal was Jedi Blue, according to the Journal. 

The draft version of the lawsuit reportedly said the deal was signed by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and that she called it a “big deal strategically” in an email to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives at the social network. As part of the deal, Facebook must spend at least $500 million annually in Google-run ad auctions, with the social network winning a fixed percentage of those auctions, according to the Journal, which cited the draft lawsuit. 

Google says the allegations in the complaint are inaccurate. In an emailed statement Tuesday, a Google spokeswoman said Facebook is part of a group of more than 25 other companies that participates in a Google program called Open Bidding, in which Google works with other ad networks and exchanges. 

“The idea that this was a secret deal is just wrong,” said the spokeswoman. “There’s nothing exclusive about their involvement and they don’t receive data that is not similarly made available to other buyers.

Google is currently facing multiple antitrust lawsuits. In October, the Department of Justice filed a landmark lawsuit alleging that Google unlawfully boxed out competitors by reaching deals with phone makers to be the default search engine on their devices. And earlier this month, a group of 38 states and territories filed a lawsuit alleging that the tech giant’s search results favored its own services over those of more-specialized rivals.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

See also: In 2021, Google faces renewed battles in labor and antitrust



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