An anti-trust lawsuit accusing Google of monopolizing the technology underlying online advertising can go ahead, state attorneys have decided.

On Tuesday, September 13, Judge P. Kevin Castel allowed the majority of the states’ antitrust lawsuits to proceed.

In 2020, the attorney generals of 16 states and Puerto Rico sued Google for monopolizing the advertising technology market.

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Google attempted to dismiss the case, claiming that all of the behavior targeted by the states is legal.

The states, led by Texas, claim Google entered into a secret agreement, dubbed Jedi Blue, to give Meta Platforms Inc. preferential treatment on the exchange it runs to buy and sell online ads.

In exchange, the social media company abandoned plans to implement new technology that would have challenged Google’s online advertising monopoly.

Castel dismissed that claim, saying “there is nothing inexplicable or suspicious” about what led the companies to enter into the agreement.

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Google said the judge struck down “large parts” of the Texas attorney general’s case, including the “centerpiece” — the agreement with Meta.

“This has always been a well-publicized, pro-competitive agreement,” the company said in a statement.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the decision a “major step in the right direction.”

He said: “We look forward to a jury hearing how this Big Tech giant abused its monopoly power by harming consumers to reap billions in monopoly profits.”

The states also claimed Google manipulated the auctions held on its exchange in such a way that its own products almost always won.

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According to Castel, the states can pursue a monopolization claim over national markets for publisher ad servers, ad exchanges, and ad-buying tools for small advertisers.

Google has stated that it will continue to fight these claims.

A spokesperson said: “As we’ve long said, advertising technology is a fiercely competitive industry — and our products increase choice for publishers, advertisers and consumers while enabling small businesses to affordably find new customers.

“We look forward to setting the record straight.”

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Other parts of Castel’s ruling went against the state’s case. He found the states failed to plausibly allege anticompetitive conduct tied to Reserve Price Optimization.

This is a program in Google’s exchange that tries to help website publishers increase revenues if the company thinks a buyer would be willing to pay more for ads on their site.

Castel also found the states didn’t adequately demonstrate how Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages is anti-competitive. AMP is a project where websites are cached on Google servers so they can more quickly be served to customers on mobile.

The states’ bid to block Google from using Dynamic Allocation was dismissed by the judge, who concluded the allegations were “historical in nature” because the program ended in 2019 and wasn’t likely to be revived.

Source: Bloomberg

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