According to court documents filed in the United States on Friday, top executives from Google and Facebook were personally involved in the approval of an allegedly illegal 2018 pact to consolidate their control in the internet advertising business.
The documents, which are part of an antitrust lawsuit filed by a group of US states against Google, level significant charges against the tech titans, who have long been accused of having monopolies.
According to the states, Google attempted to eliminate competition by manipulating ad auctions, a complex system that chooses which adverts show on web pages based on anonymous profiles of internet users.
Even though their identities were blacked, the legal documents filed in a New York court clearly reference to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, as well as Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The suit stated that “Google CEO Sundar Pichai personally signed off on the terms of the agreement. “The economic terms were communicated to Facebook’s CEO, who was told: “‘We’re virtually ready to sign and need your approval to continue forward,'” according to the documents.
The action was revised for the third time, and it no longer included Facebook or its parent company Meta as defendants. In response to an AFP query, a spokeswoman said, “Meta’s non-exclusive bidding deal with Google, as well as similar partnerships we have with other bidding platforms, have helped to improve competition for ad spots.”
Google, which has denied influencing the digital ad market, directed AFP to a blog post from 2021 in which it promised to defend itself in court against a complaint it called “misleading” and lacking “credible substance.”
Pichai had personally approved off on any such arrangement, according to a corporate representative. According to the complaint, Google internally referred to the deal as “Jedi Blue,” the hue being a reference to Facebook’s emblem.
The action claims that “no sensible developer would agree to have his auctions rigged by the market’s two major buyers.” “As a result, Google and Facebook swore their agreement’s terms to secrecy.” The antitrust complaint is one of three lawsuits filed against Google on several fronts.
In October of last year, the US government filed a landmark lawsuit accusing Google of maintaining a “illegal monopoly” in online search and advertising.
It’s the nation’s main antitrust lawsuit in years, and it might lead to the Silicon Valley behemoth’s demise. According to eMarketer, while Google’s ad revenue has increased, its share of the burgeoning US online ad industry is ebbing due to competition from Facebook, Amazon, and others.