In lawsuit, publishers say revenues fell due to Google-Facebook deal

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AUSTIN, Texas: Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and Puerto Rico have joined a lawsuit filed by Texas and nine other U.S. states against Alphabet Inc’s Google, accusing it of violating antitrust laws to boost its monopoly over the online advertising business, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced.

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“Our coalition looks forward to holding Google accountable for its illegal conduct and reforming Google’s practices in the future,” Paxton said in a statement, quoted by Reuters.

“We are confident Google will be forced to pay for its misconduct through significant financial penalties,” he added.

The lawsuit, which is among the three filed last year by the federal government or states against Google, alleges the tech giant violates antitrust laws in how it maintains a monopoly in the online ad market.

The Texas-led complaint, amended Tuesday, accuses Google of quietly colluding with its closest online rival Facebook and following unfair practices under the pretext of protecting users’ personal data to entrench its market position and stifle competition. Publishers have complained that this strategy has led to lower revenues.

The revised complaint also claims that Facebook and Google “work together to identify users using Apple products”. In recent years, Apple has rolled out several privacy changes to prevent tracking of its users by ad tech companies – measures that some companies have tried to circumvent.

In a statement, Google has said the new claim is “meritless” and merely an addition to an “already meritless lawsuit”. Meanwhile, Facebook declined to comment and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The revised complaint also alleges that Google has been able to view messages backed up by Facebook’s WhatsApp users on Google Drive’s cloud storage since 2015.

The lawsuit claims that although Google knew WhatsApp users were unaware of this access, it “did nothing to correct this misunderstanding”.

Google Drive added nearly 250 million users by June 2016, due to the WhatsApp partnership, according to the complaint.

However, Google has said the lawsuit made a “false insinuation that we use backed up WhatsApp data for advertising purposes.”

The company has also pushed for moving the case to California. Google’s petition is expected to be weighed during a March 18 hearing.


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