The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday. The government alleges the tech giant engages in a wide array of anti-competitive practices, particularly in how it corners the internet search market. The DOJ’s lawsuit claims Google accounts for 80% of search queries in the U.S. and ensures its market dominance through large payments to other companies, deceptive practices that force users to use Google properties, and other actions that unfairly stifle competition [Justice Department Hits Google With Antitrust Lawsuit, by Brent Kendall and Rob Copeland, Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2020].
“If the government does not enforce its antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google,” deputy U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement. Google whined about the lawsuit. “People use Google because they choose to—not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker said.
Google is certainly rattled by the lawsuit. It sent an email to employees telling them to keep their heads down and don’t attract scrutiny during this process [Google execs urge employees to keep their heads down amid DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit, by Jennifer Elias, CNBC, October 20, 2020].
While the DOJ’s lawsuit doesn’t address tech censorship, it is certainly a positive development. It indicates the Trump admin is willing to take on the tech titans and antitrust lawsuits create the potential for free speech alternatives to have a shot in the market. It’s also just plain good for the American public to see these corporations lose their immense power.
Now the administration just needs to act on free speech issues. There are signs that this is happening. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week his agency would move forward with enacting Trump’s proposal to review Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides tech platforms with publisher immunities partially on the basis they act as neutral political forums. They clearly violate this spirit.
Trump’s nominee for the FCC, Nathan Simington, is considered to be a reliable foe of Big Tech who wants to end the censorship. His nomination is stalled in the Senate, but the recent censorship is likely to push Republicans to confirm his nomination [GOP Sen. Roger Wicker Has Not Scheduled Confirmation Hearing For Trump FCC Nominee Crucial To Talking On Big Tech, by Allum Bokhari, Breitbart, October 8, 2020].
If Trump wins, Big Tech will know it’s screwed. The tech giants want to rig the election. Trump won’t forget that, and he will have the power and political capital to pay them back.