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State AGs Bring the Search Antitrust Case Against Google

Eight weeks ago, the United States Department of Justice brought a historic antitrust suit against Google. This morning, a bipartisan group of thirty-eight state attorneys general has followed with their own suit, zeroing in on how Google manipulates its search results to illegally maintain its general search monopoly. (Read the full lawsuit HERE.)

The bipartisan enforcement action of the state attorneys general today is arguably more significant than previous lawsuits in that it strikes at the foundation of Google’s dominance: its search results. For nearly a decade, Yelp’s small public policy team has openly advocated for heightened antitrust scrutiny of Google’s behavior, so it is gratifying to see Google finally brought to justice for this specific conduct. 

Bringing an antitrust case against the most powerful company in the world requires determination and courage, so we applaud the cooperative, bipartisan work of the state attorneys general and all the staff involved in this lawsuit. We hope today’s action is the beginning of a return to a more vibrant and open internet.

Google’s betrayal of the web directly harms consumers.

Today, when a mom searches for a pediatrician on Google, instead of being matched with the best information from across the web, she is unwittingly steered to Google’s own house product, which has objectively lower quality information. 

This self-serving bias by Google happens billions of times per week in the United States. By systematically reducing the quality of its search results to entrench and extend its search and search advertising monopolies, Google is directly harming consumers.

As Google self-deals by steering traffic to its low quality house products, the rest of the web is having its “oxygen supply” cut off. This wasn’t always true. In fact, It’s worth remembering that Google’s co-founder Larry Page represented to the SEC that Google was a turnstile when he said:

“We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point. The portal strategy tries to own all of the information. [Other search engines don’t] necessarily provide the best results; [they] provide [their] results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible.”

Roughly a decade ago, most of Google’s traffic was diffused out onto the web. It’s hard to decouple the rise of “Web 2.0” (i.e., all the incredible, weird, and beautiful things the open web used to produce) from the rise of Google. Google used to be the engine that nurtured this growth. Yet, when it reached a point of dominance, it began converting itself into a walled garden, harming consumers, and hobbling competition along the way. As of last year, the majority of traffic arriving at Google either terminates or goes to a secondary page on Google.com. 

We hope today’s action will begin to restore an internet that thrives on meritocracy and rewards innovation.