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Nine more US states join ad antitrust legal battle against Google

More than a third of US states now party to the lawsuit, which aims to break up Chocolate Factory's advertising arm

Nine additional states have signed on to a Department of Justice lawsuit against Google parent Alphabet for monopolizing digital ad sales, bringing the total number of states suing the search giant (in this case) to 17.

Attorneys general for Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington and West Virginia have joined California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia, not to mention the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, as plaintiffs in the case.

 "Today we welcome [the new states to] our existing coalition of eight co-plaintiff states, to deliver the benefits of competition to website publishers, digital advertisers, and the American public," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. "We look forward to litigating this important case alongside our state law enforcement partners to end Google's long-running monopoly in digital advertising technology markets."

Filed in January, the civil antitrust lawsuit accuses Google of violating sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which make anti-competitive contracts and monopolization illegal.

In its complaint, the Justice Department alleges that Google spent 15 years engaging "in a course of anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct" by eliminating competition through acquisitions, forcing publishers and advertisers to use its products due to market dominance and otherwise making competing advertising tools more difficult to use.

"In doing so, Google cemented its dominance in tools relied on by website publishers and online advertisers, as well as the digital advertising exchange that runs ad auctions," the DoJ said in January.

The suit seeks to make Google sell its Ad Manager Suite, which includes the DoubleClick for Publishers ad service platform and the AdX ad exchange.

"Google now controls the digital tool that nearly every major website publisher uses to sell ads on their websites… it controls the dominant advertiser tool that helps millions of large and small advertisers buy ad inventory… and it controls the largest advertising exchange," the DoJ said. 

Google hasn't responded to a request for comment on the news that more than a third of US states are now suing it over an alleged advertising monopoly.

They just keep casing the joint

Google's history with the DoJ isn't confined to alleged abuse of online advertising - the Chocolate Factory has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Uncle Sam and 14 US states since 2020 over accusations it has also monopolized internet search.

That case progressed to the discovery phase earlier this year, and it came out in late February that Google may have been deleting messages between employees that should have been preserved due to ongoing legal action. 

Google was accused of similar destruction of evidence in late March in another ongoing antitrust battle the company is facing over anticompetitive behavior on the Google Play store. The judge in that case sanctioned the search giant for not taking reasonable steps to retain information "that should have been preserved in the anticipation or conduct of litigation." No such behavior has been identified in the advertising antitrust case.

The next hearing in the advertising antitrust case is scheduled for April 28, when Google will present its arguments for having the case dismissed. ®

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