Google is headed to trial in Washington D.C., where it will defend itself over the Justice Department's claims that it abused its monopoly power in its search engine business. Leon Neal/Getty Images

United States takes on Google in biggest tech monopoly trial of 21st century

Headshot of Dara Kerr |

The United States government is taking on one of the world’s most powerful companies: Google.

A court battle kicks off on Tuesday in which the U.S. Justice Department will argue that Google abused its power as a monopoly to dominate the search engine business. It’s the government’s first major monopoly case to make it to trial in decades and the first in the age of the modern internet.

The Justice Department’s case hinges on claims that Google illegally orchestrated its business dealings, so that it’s the first search engine people see when they turn on their phones and web browsers. The government says Google’s goal was to stomp out competition.

“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” said former Attorney General William Barr when the case was first filed in October 2020.

Now nearly three years later, with millions of pages of documents produced and depositions from more than 150 people, the case is going to trial.

How the internet is run is at stake

The government’s case challenges how tech companies are able to amass power and control the products people now use daily in their lives. The outcome of the case could change how tech giants are able to do business and, in effect, how the internet is run.

Google, which is worth $1.7 trillion, controls around 90% of the U.S. search engine market. It’s put together a massive legal team and brought on outside law firms to help fight its case.

The company says its search product is superior to competitors and that is why it dominates the industry. Google says if people don’t want to use its search engine, they can just switch to another.

“People don’t use Google because they have to — they use it because they want to,” Kent Walker, one of Google’s top lawyers and its president of global affairs, wrote in an emailed statement. “It’s easy to switch your default search engine — we’re long past the era of dial-up internet and CD-ROMs.”.

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