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Justice Department sues Google over alleged search monopoly

The Justice Department and 11 states Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets.

Why it matters: The long-awaited suit is Washington's first major blow against the tech giants that many on both the right and left argue have grown too large and powerful. Still, this is just step one in what could be a lengthy and messy court battle.

Details: Google has unfairly shored up its dominance by locking in its search engine as the default in browsers and on mobile devices including Apple iPhones and phones that run on Google's own Android operating system, DOJ argues in the suit, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court.

  • Google's use of what DOJ charges are exclusionary contracts and its own properties have "foreclosed competition for internet search," the agency says in the suit.
  • That in turn has thwarted rivals from effectively competing against Google in search advertising, DOJ contends.

What they're saying: Google's conduct in search is "illegal under traditional antitrust principles and must be stopped," DOJ attorney Ryan Shores said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

  • "Consumers and advertisers suffer from less choice, less innovation and less competitive advertising prices," Shores said.

The other side: Google has long maintained its might in search is a natural result of developing a solid product and has denied engaging in anti-competitive tactics. The company also contends it faces healthy competition in its major revenue-generating business lines including advertising and mobile.

  • "Today's lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed," a Google spokesperson said. "People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives."

Of note: The 11 state AGs joining DOJ on the suit are all Republicans. It's a far smaller group than the broad bipartisan coalition of AGs that has been probing Google for potential antitrust abuses.

Read the lawsuit.

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