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Google vs. US government antitrust trial opens

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High-stakes Google vs. US government antitrust trial kicks off in Washington, poised to reshape the tech industry and examine allegations of monopolistic behavior

The high-stakes antitrust trial between the US government and Google has commenced in a Washington district court. 

This pivotal case, the largest test of antitrust law in decades, is the first such trial against Google in the US.

It has attracted widespread attention from big tech companies, regulators, and the public, with the potential to reshape the tech industry’s operating landscape.

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The trial is set to last 10 weeks, during which the government will present its case.

The government accuses Google of abusing its market power and financial resources to stifle competition. 

The suit contends Google secured a monopoly on internet search by striking multi-billion-dollar deals with companies like Apple and Samsung.

It has made Google the default search engine on their devices, thereby shutting out competitors.

Google denies the claims

Google vehemently denies these allegations.

It argues consumers are free to use alternative search engines and that its services are just part of the internet browsing experience.

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In the government’s opening statements, attorney Kenneth Dintzer laid out the case against Google. 

Dintzer argued the trial would demonstrate how Google maintained a search monopoly through exclusionary agreements with device manufacturers. 

He also cites Google’s attempts to hinder antitrust enforcement by blocking document access and automatically deleting internal messages.

Mr Dintzer said: “This case is about the future of the internet.”

The justice department launched the lawsuit in 2020 and later joined an additional suit against Google.

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Attorney generals filed the suit from over three dozen states and territories. 

The states’ case, led by antitrust lawyer William Cavanaugh, will also be presented during the trial.

It’d focus on Google withholding portions of its services to disadvantage competitors.

During opening statements, Google’s lead attorney, John Schmidtlein, argued to downplay the significance of default search engines.

He emphasized the variety of ways people browse the internet. 

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He claimed Microsoft’s Bing search engine faced challenges due to reasons beyond Google’s deals with companies like Apple.

The trial’s first witness was Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, who discussed email exchanges and internal memos dating back to the 2000s. 

These documents revealed discussions about the threat posed by Microsoft and the importance of search defaults in outperforming competitors.

Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, presides over the case, and no jury is involved. 

Ruling is likely next year

The trial would last several months before the issue of a ruling, likely in early 2024. 

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It remains uncertain what punitive measures Google might face if found guilty of antitrust violations. 

The case is reminiscent of the 1998 antitrust suit against Microsoft, which initially resulted in a breakup order but was later settled.

Google also faces antitrust charges from European Union regulators.

They argue the company violated Europe’s antitrust laws, primarily concerning its dominance in the online advertising market. 

These regulatory actions in the EU are still under appeal, with hefty fines imposed on Google in recent years.

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