US lawsuit says Google, Facebook chiefs approved pact in online marketplace

Top Google and Facebook bosses were directly involved in approving an allegedly illegal deal in 2018 to cement their dominance of the online advertising market, US court documents revealed on Friday.

The filings, part of an antitrust lawsuit brought by a coalition of US states targeting Google, make serious allegations against Big Tech giants long accused of holding monopolies.

According to the states’ charges, the online search colossus sought to squeeze out competition by manipulating ad auctions – the ultra-sophisticated system that determines which ads appear on web pages based on anonymized user profiles.

Legal documents filed in a New York court clearly reference Sundar Pichai, head of Google’s parent company Alphabet, as well as Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, although their names have been redacted .

“Google CEO Sundar Pichai also personally signed the terms of the agreement,” the lawsuit states.

The documents note that the economic terms were emailed to the Facebook CEO and he was told, “‘We are almost ready to sign and need your approval to move forward.'”

It was the third time the lawsuit had been amended and did not name Facebook or its parent company Meta as defendants.

“Meta’s non-exclusive auction agreement with Google and similar agreements we have with other auction platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements,” a spokesperson said in response. to an AFP investigation.

“These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while compensating publishers fairly, which translates to better results for everyone.”

Google, which has categorically denied manipulating the digital advertising market, referred AFP to a 2021 blog post in which it pledged to defend itself in court against a claim deemed “misleading” and without “basis credible”.

A company spokesperson further denied that Pichai personally signed any such agreement.

Google internally referred to the deal as “Jedi Blue,” with the color a reference to the Facebook logo, according to the filing.

“No rational developer would choose to have their bids rigged by the two biggest buyers in the market,” the lawsuit said.

“Thus, Google and Facebook have sworn to secrecy on the terms of their agreement.”

The antitrust lawsuit is one of three engaging Google on different fronts.

The US government filed its successful lawsuit in October last year, accusing Google of maintaining an “illegal monopoly” in online search and advertising.

The country’s biggest antitrust case in decades, it opens the door to a potential breakup of the Silicon Valley titan.

While Google’s advertising revenue has continued to grow, its share of the booming U.S. online advertising market is shrinking under pressure from competitors such as Facebook, Amazon and others, according to eMarketer.

This story was published from a news feed with no text edits. Only the title has been changed.

To subscribe to Mint Bulletins

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.