Our Take On the Department of Justice Formally Filing Lawsuit Against Google
Department of Justice Formally Files Lawsuit Against Google
In a recent video blog (vlog), Steven Long, founder of Precision Legal Marketing discussed the lawsuit that the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed against Google. Here’s what he had to say:
What I’m here to do today is to completely pontificate and riff on this what I think is a completely ridiculous Department of Justice lawsuit file apparently on behalf of the American people filed against Google.
Why do I think it’s ridiculous? Because I don’t think it truly really attacks the issue, the issue being the protection for the American people when it comes to Google themselves and what the real issue is.
So, I’ll share that but let’s unpack this complaint on behalf of the DOJ because I’ve got some problems with it. Anyway, I believe just for the record I’m going to be on podcast tomorrow with Answering Legal talking about with Nick, if you’re part of his group, great, if you’re not, you should be uh over it Let’s Talk Legal Marketing. You should join that group we’re going to talk tomorrow about this very topic which has sure become a sensitive one
I was just scrolling the top here. It’s weird right? Because it doesn’t seem politicized because the states that signed on to the complaint were clearly Republican in States with Attorney’s general that are clearly republican obviously, working for republican governor so I don’t really politically understand this and I don’t want to get into the politics of this right now but it does beg some questions? I don’t know, it’s so weird. This whole thing’s really weird to me. Anyway, let’s get going with the weirdness.
So, it defines Google who they are and what they’re doing. You know, 20 years old and how much revenue they make. In my opinion, start out, let me be very crystal clear of my opinion here right? They have the right to make money, people. We’re in a capitalist society in the United States of America, they have a right to make money, now they don’t have the right to violate the law, and make money at the same time, but they have the right to make money and so do you. As a law firm, business owner which is what we spend most of our days talking about as an attorney who owns a law firm or part of a law firm, you have the right to make money too. As an American citizen, you have the right to make money and so does Google. So I love that it’s you know, look it’s this big rich company that makes you know has a mark cut out in excess of a trillion dollars and they make a hundred sixty billion dollars of revenue over a year. Okay, good for them, the company was started out of a garage! I have a garage! You could start a company out of there. Like who cares?! Anyway, I digress.
So it goes on to define specifically how google is used by saying “Today a general search engine are distributed primarily on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and computers. These devices contain web browsers (software applications for accessing information on the internet)” So the DOJ themselves, this will come up later, outlining a complaint that this software is embedded on your phone, right? And it’s calling it as a search access point and it specifically defining that “call on a general search engine to respond to a user’s query.” So, it’s already defining access points in queries. So, “Over the last 10 years internet search on mobile devices have grown rapidly” while there is actually trajectory for that, there’s percentages over time over an x and y. There are growth patterns that could’ve mentioned that are important here in my opinion because a computer is different than a mobile device. Let’s just start out talking about that. How a computer is different from a mobile device. I mean here’s my mobile device, right? I’m in complete control of it. It’s handheld. It’s not on a lap.
Anyways, it goes through that stuff where “general search engine, by far the most effective means of distribution, is to be the present default general search engine for mobile and computer search access points.” Even where users can change the default, they rarely do. Wait a minute really? How many of those users, let’s define rarely shall we? Because I change that stuff all the time, I mean not daily but if I went to the store, and I switched from apple to Samsung, which I never do, I would change my search, my default search browsers, why not? People do it all the time on their computers, they’re conditioned, which is a word I want to use to describe a couple of things in this lawsuit. People are conditioned to make that change. They’re conditioned, we don’t want to talk about demography, and age groups and whose more likely to make those changes or not make those changes, we don’t need to get into that. It’s pretty much general knowledge at this point that you can make a change on your computer or on your mobile device for the default browser. I use Safari, because I’m lazy cause I don’t want to change it, whereas I can install Google chrome, which I have on my computer and take advantage of all kinds of really cool stuff like every browser tab I have open on my computer right now would also show up on my phone, I don’t care. Honestly, because I don’t even use my phone for internet searches that often, to be honest with you, I don’t. I don’t know if you do but I mean, occasionally. So anyway, it goes on to define that people rarely make those changes. “This leaves the preset default general search engine with de facto exclusivity.” I mean is that like a legal term? De facto exclusivity? I mean why couldn’t you, why can’t you present some data DOJ? Like come on! How more vague could that be. Anyway, let’s keep going, so here we go de facto exclusivity that’s apparently a new legal term which we should all learn. It goes on to say “As Google itself has recognized, this has particularly true on mobile devices, where defaults are especially sticky”
Well let’s talk about that for a second because i have an iPhone, it’s an iPhone, What’s Apple’s market share? Let’s look. Let’s look together. Oh look! 46%.
So let me get this right, DOJ, let me understand, you’re claiming with this new legal term de facto exclusivity, that the default that are on mobile devices are particularly sticky when 50% of the market share is an apple device which has safari as the browser. Really? So, does anybody remember when Facebook was called in front of congress, which they almost thunder nose and didn’t show up to and Zuckerburg was asked like he had to define for a senator how the internet works. It’s like seriously people wrote this complaint and filed these complaints and don’t know how technology works in the hands of American people. This is preposterous!
“For years Google has entered into exclusionary agreements.” Okay now you’re giving us some layers. Let’s listen, let’s talk about these exclusionary agreements. Including tying arrangements, and engage in anti-competitive conducts, to lock up distribution channels, okay I’m interested, let’s find out. “Google pays billions of dollars each year, the distributors including popular device manufactures such as Apple, LG, Motorola and Samsung.”
Now on the search I just did, right, I saw Samsung has a 25% market share. So, between Google and Samsung, you’ve got 75% of the market dominated by 2 smartphone manufacturers, Granted on the Samsung phone, defaulted there is Google, but on Apple it’s safari, half the market. Yet here you are saying that they are in some sort of a de facto exclusivity with Apple. Are they? I don’t know because my Apple phone, my iPhone doesn’t have a G anywhere, there’s no Google Logo and for the record, i don’t like Google. So, this is not coming from somebody who likes Google. I’m going to tell you right now what I hope is, somebody from google will see this and talk to me while being a witness here.
They also alleged they have some sort of an exclusive and i trust over that result and i trust with “wireless carriers, such as AT&T, T -mobile, and Verizon” Honestly, I don’t know what’s true there what’s not true, I really don’t. I have sprint. So apparently, they’re none factor well I guess AT&T, T-Mobile is Sprint now so I don’t know. “and browser developer such as Mozilla, Opera and UCWeb” What the hell is UC Web? Is that like a college web server? I think that’s what it is. I think it’s a collegiate specific like college web browser we have to look. Opera for real? Who uses opera? No one. And they have their own search engine, their own browser it’s called Chrome which for the record, you can change your default search engine really easily, like super simply. So, they don’t even lock down their own browser. Now, we’re alleging we’re “specifically prohibit Google’s counterparts from dealing with Google’s competitors” Again, I don’t like Google. I’ve written a blog on our website uh talking about Google’s issue when it comes to SEO, when it comes to paid ads, but I’m going to show you something really interesting here right? About Bing, their competitor “Some of these agreements, just reading also require distributors to take bundle of Google apps, including its search apps, and feature them on devices in prime positions…” I honestly, I can’t speak to that. That I can’t speak to because I’ve never seen it. Because I’m not aware of it. Now, this is going to start talking about Microsoft. I was, everybody, was aware of the Windows 95 issue with Internet Explorer because we were all forced to use it. That’s all we had man, right? I don’t know anything about the bundled apps, nothing. Do you? I mean it doesn’t make it legal or illegal , I mean I get that but it talks so much about consumer access to this that you almost think about that it has to be something that you’re supposed to be aware of? I don’t know
“Google’s exclusionary agreements cover just under 60 percent of all general search queries” Okay so they’re claiming that Google’s exclusionary agreements cover just under 60 percent of all general search queries. See this, the Department of Justice, Bill Barr, you must have a Math problem because you can’t claim under 60 percent. What is the percentage? It says just. What Is just? Like seriously is it 58, 52? What’s up with the ambiguity here? Anyway, it goes on to claim here “Nearly half the remaining queries are funneled through Google owned-and-operated properties (e.g. Google’s browser, Chrome)” I mean is Chrome a property? Okay so it’s defining. Now it’s defining it as a property and not a browser, which it is. I mean it’s both right? They own it. Which I think this is what it’s referring to. Now it’s “Google effectively owns and controls search distribution channels accounting to roughly 80 percent of general search queries in the United States” All of this is, trying to get the recipe out of them. I mean what’s Coke’s, seriously, what’s Coke’s market share? Right? What is their market share? Should they have to divulge their recipe to Pepsi? I don’t know. Largely it says so we’re being force fed to the tune of 80 percent of general search queries because of the result of “Google’s exclusionary agreements and anti-competitive conduct, Google in recent years has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all general-search engine queries in the United States, and almost 95% of queries on mobile devices” I don’t know. How was it even possible when iPhone owns half the smartphone market and packs in, bakes in their own browser, Safari. How does that math even align? I would love to see the accounting. Is there even like a forensic accounting department that was involved in the writing of this Bill, Bill Barr? I mean he filed it. He has signatures on it.
Oh now “Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search. General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google” So I’m going to back up a second, right? Because something that really stuck with me is this whole claim that they control access points, right?
And here’s the deal, when I pick up my smartphone, and I wanna go “online”, which we have to define. Let me know what is online on smartphone? Because technically, you have a stable connection to WiFi network or your cell phone network, your cell tower network and you’re online if you pick up a phone or you’re online if you go to TikTok or Facebook or YouTube, those are access points. Google doesn’t own TikTok, I mean there’s that whole mess. They don’t own TikTok, they don’t own Facebook, obviously. Those are access points for me. Why? There is a search bar there I can search Facebook, I can search TikTok, I can search Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Those are internet I’m searching information using the internet to return the search. Those are access points. Google doesn’t control that. So, what are we even talking about? Oh this is one of my favorite parts, so “ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google” Okay, we’ll get to the actual allegation here in a second because that’s part of the Sherman Act, we’ll get there. “Google is so dominant that “Google” is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet” Cry me a river. Who makes these? This is puffs. What is that? Is that a Kleenex? It’s puffs. Have you ever said to anybody hand me a puff? Tissue, maybe. No, you say hand me a Kleenex. Come on DOJ, you’re better than this. Come on.
It goes on i mean it used the word monopolize. I mean first off, is Google monopoly? Yeah probably. Probably because they’re better. Because let me back up. Here’s what I did: Here’s what, they can’t be a monopoly. First off, they’re not a monopoly because you have choices. As a consumer, you have choices, you have
Just right now, I have opened up a tab and it goes to Google. That’s my default search engine that I want. Why do I want it? Because if you ever go here, watch this you’ll love this. This is Bing (Because It’s Not Google) So I’m going to do this search for personal injury attorney and i want to really carefully go through on Bing not Google. This is Google’s competitor in about 20 percent of the niche search market, 28/23 depends on where and all that but that’s about what they have. I want to go through this. There’s an ad, there’s an ad and I’m going to scroll, so there’s the ads same thing that you see on Google that they’re alleging this lawsuit is an issue which we’ll get to that in a second. Here are a bunch of aggregators which do not only clutter the search results but they clutter the business in my opinion I’m not a big fan of. There’s Avvo, there’s thumbtack. These are aggregators of law, of personal injury lawyers which are of my search right? Oh, here’s Bing’s own News. There’s their news. Not one result is returned on this engine result page that is not, that is not either an ad or an aggregator until oh you see a little ad right there? It’s an ad. So, Bing who isn’t named in this lawsuit has an entire search engine results page full of ads. And oh, by the way, I mean if i go to the next page, it will probably be the same thing.
Now, watch this, let’s go to Google and then we’re going to go back to the complaint because of what they alleged in the complaint. Now remember, when we go back to the complaint, remember what you’re seeing here. So, we’ve got the ads, we’ve got the local search ads, those are cool. You know those are new too, we should do a video on that. We’ve got their excellent interpretation of the map, much more geographically accurate to where I’m sitting right now. We’ve got the knowledge panel; they’ve got aggregators but then guess what else they have? Here’s Mr. Decker, so on, so on and so forth. They’re returning real search results of real attorneys; did you see that on Bing? No and I’m just going to do this really quickly. This is page one people on a desktop. Look how long this is. These are attorneys. It is giving me the result that I wanted. I typed in personal injury attorney. It’s not filled with ads in the middle of the text like these alleges, the complaint. Putting the device you’re on it’s on the bottom, but they are clearly underneath the SEO listings and this is ever-changing like I saw a video on Washington post today right that had like the original OG Google ad setup where it had a Yellow box around here. They got rid of it. Why?
They want to make money? Okay so they want to make more money. They’re still advertising. That’s what they do. They’re a search engine man.
I told you in the beginning of this the word conditioned, has to be talked about because I am conditioned to scroll, to find what I’m looking for because I’m looking, which means I’m searching, which means I’m going to scroll which then it’s like perpetual uh, you get me, now watch, let’s go back to the complaint.
It says, ”In the United States, advertisers pay about $40 billion annually to place ads on Google’s search engine results page (SERP)” remember that term “It is these search advertising monopoly revenues that Google “shares” with distributors in return for commitments to favor Google’s search engine. ” Okay so display ads. So, display ads network. “These enormous payments create a strong disincentive for distributors to switch ” So now we’re talking about Google’s ad network or not? I don’t get it man, what are we talking about? We’re talking about ad choices? It doesn’t tell me. It’s vague and it shouldn’t be vague. Because my interpretation probably some of your interpretation of Google, meaning that’s a search engine. Well this part right here so we’re clear is not talking about Google as a search engine, it’s talking about the network that the network, Google search network.
So, I’m a big Planet F1 Fan. They’re talking about these ads that appear on these networks and what these are, these are web, if you own this content website, see this sponsored content section? This is Google ad choices. See that little logo? That’s what that is.
That’s what they’re talking about but they blended it with the SERP, the word search engine results page, which is not the display network. It is this: This is a search engine results page. We spend countless decades a year, which doesn’t add up right? Hours and hours a year educating attorneys, law firms, professionals, and paralegals and anybody who listens really, about what a SERP is, what a search engine results page is and we, at length talk about how this works and I’m not going to do that right now. But they’ve blended their argument, which is wrong. They could’ve broken this out so we can understand. Jury’s going to understand this. Because Google’s going to get up there and say look, they convoluted the entire thing. Here’s our search engine business, here’s our Google ads business, here’s our display ad network business. Are people handcuffed to Display Ad Network? I don’t know. I’m not an expert on that subject because I don’t use it. I don’t advertise clients on it much or very often. I can’t speak to that.
So, they’re saying “these enormous payments create a strong disincentive for distributors to switch” Wouldn’t they switch if it wasn’t working? It goes on to say that “The payments also raise barriers to entry for rivals- particularly small…” So now we’re back to search engine business and not the ad network business that I just showed you right? So now they’re back to trying to be a search engine or claiming that there is a search engine. And they’re saying that these companies can’t rise to the top.
There hasn’t been a brand-new search engine trying to launch in years. Name me one! Yahoo used to be the market leader. Have you seen Yahoo lately? It doesn’t look like a search engine. Bing used to try. Bing kind of hung in there but in the SEO business which is Search Engine Optimization business, it’s taking a website and trying to push this as close to the top on a keyword search as possibly can. That’s what we do a lot here on precision legal marketing. And so, let’s just keep going because I don’t even know what they’re talking about.
So, we’re talking about this exclusionary payoff again so now some exclusionary thing again. I don’t know what they’re talking about. “Anti-competitive conduct described below” so they’re going to discuss anti-competitive conduct.
So “anti-competitive practices are especially pernicious because they deny rival scale to compete effectively” well hang on a minute, because what is it on 2007 or 2008 Facebook does not claim to be a research engine but they are an internet access point. Make no mistake about it. More people in this country access the internet on Facebook than any other point. They rose to the top. What about all the other social media platforms? They ‘re access points. Disagree with me in the comments please. And it just basically names call when I say name, Google’s biggest strength in search Google’s former CEO is “Scale is the key. We just have so much scale in terms of data we can bring to bear” Okay so you’ve got a lot of data because you’re the largest search engine you got in the search data
Listen, I hate Google. I don’t like Google. You know how difficult it is for us to do our job because Google will not tell us what to do. They will not give us a clear-cut set of instructions in trying to get a website to rank on the top in this search right here. They won’t do it. They’ll say, well, you should do this and you should do that but I’m talking about there’s no SOP there’s no manual to tell me as an SEO, what to do to get a website to come up first on these searches. Trust me when I tell you i don’t like Google but this is wrong. This is not clear, it’s not concise, this is wrong. Now they’re claiming Google’s distribution without talking about what the distribution is talking about. Are they talking about the ad network distribution or are they talking about the actual organic results or are they talking about Google ads? What the hell are they even alleging here? It thwarts potential innovation? Really? TikTok seems to be doing well for itself. You know everybody hears TikTok in the news because the Trump administration was going to break it up and you know its States so they’re going to ban it. Do you know what they were before they were TikTok? Musical.ly. Do you remember Musical.ly? Your kids probably used it a couple of years ago. You know, you make these music videos and record yourself dancing, your lip syncing. That was TikTok. That’s what they started out against or as. I feel like they figured out and they only have their legs on that for so long, so they shifted to what you see today as TikTok.
So anyway, now it actually starts naming names. “For example, one company recently started a subscription-based general search engine that does not rely on advertising profits derived from monetizing user information” So now, we’ve gone from blocking ad network, wait, we’ve complained about ad networks, we’ve made a complaint against mark domination, and default browsers on computers and cellphones and now we’re talking about what? We’re talking about monetizing user information. Now we’re talking about information. First off, who wrote this complaint? Absolutely should be fired. Because they have concluded everything in a one big basketball full of crap that this is a duck hunt for Google. “Another way DuckDuckgo differentiates itself from google through its privacy-protective policies” What? DuckduckGo has been around since probably 2010? Something like that? And now we’re just talking about it? And again, it mentions the word access points and it’s calling them “that these new search models are denied the tools to become true rivals”.
It’s worked for Facebook, it’s worked for TikTok, Instagram, which they bought, Facebook, it’s worked for a hundred fifty other niche and more. App developers in this country and those are all bona fide search access points, in my opinion. And they’re in a sticky wick, DOJ’s going to end up in a sticky wick because they failed to define this properly, because I don’t even know. Like did they consult with anybody? This is very easily; this seems to be completely streamlined. You have to define the problem which they failed to do. They can’t even define Google and how it works. How does the internet work? They don’t know! At least they can’t tell us in this complaint.
So now we’re getting to anti-competitive, now they’re going to cite 20 years ago with “DC Circuit in United States vs Microsoft” and I have not read the Sherman act. So, I haven’t gone there yet I don’t have the time, I just got on here in rift. But I’m going to read this because I think this is going to be important as the court progresses, right? So “Almost 20 years ago, the D.C Circuit in United States v Microsoft recognized that anti-competitive agreements by a high-tech monopolist shutting off effective distribution channels for rivals, such as by requiring preset default status (as Google does) and making software undeletable (as Google also does)” No it doesn’t.
Where? In the Google ad network? Where you concluded this so you can pass it off as a violation of the Sherman act? It’s not. I could delete every ounce of Google from my life right now I could divorce Google right now. It would take me 5 minutes. I mean they could’ve gone down a whole bunch of different roads. I mean let’s talk about where they could’ve gone with this. I mean if you want to talk about consumer protection, let’s have this conversation, right? So, did you know, some of you, cause I’ve spoken with some of you in this group about it, but did you know that if this law firm, made a change of their phone number, or really any change at all, they risk being completely taken off Google maps and Google doesn’t provide a lifeline or a helpline for these people. So, you get taken off Google Maps, your listing is down, you are off Google, the number one search engine, you are off search in Google Maps, you are off everything. They just take you down, they make you disappear. As they say in New York, they build you some cement shoes, right? You can’t get back on. So, they flag your listing because you changed something in the listing, they flagged it as being spam, erroneously, which they’re layering it, it’s not spam. But you change your phone number, you let them review the listing and they can actually take down the listing if they want to. And believe it or not, it happens all the time and you can’t get a backup because there’s no, well sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t a phone number to call to get any live person, anywhere in the world, to help you get the listing back up. And if you do talk to a live person, what do they tell you? They just tell you oh, we’re going to review it, we’ll get back to you. That’s what we as consumers need protection from and what small business owners need protection from. From the DOJ, from Google is not staffing their own helpline, is not taking care of what they perceived to be as customers, their clients, they don’t care. That’s what should be in this complaint, one of the many things that should be in this complaint, not the AdSense network.
So anyway, they go on to mention Microsoft, they go on to mention economist, they go on to make some quotes that have been made in emails that have been either turnover to congress or go flat out leaked to the press. What’s some buzzword here: “bundle, tie crush, kill hurt or block” it’s damning, it is. And then they talk about “Google has refused to diverge from its anti-competitive path” Well gee, maybe they don’t agree with it.
I will give you this that they did thumb their nose in congress. I mean it took some balls but they did it. I mean they wouldn’t show up, they refused document turnover, they would not turn, I don’t think they still have really produced even a small percentage of the documents that the senate have requested of them. They thumb their nose, absolutely thumb their nose in the government. Absolutely why they could’ve ended up in this situation.
But here we go “Absent court order, Google will continue executing its anti-competitive strategy, crippling the competitive process” So now they’re responding to the process? And the process is this right?
Here’s the process: You could hire a developer which you can hire through a Google search to make you an app to do whatever you want. Right now, you could find a developer to make you an app as long as it confirms, it confirms to the terms and conditions and policies of the Google app or the Apple app store or Google play, i think it is, it will be on your smartphone devices. And then you could go to any number of marketing channels and market that app. What process has broken? You wouldn’t want to advertise that product and that app on Google anyway. And this fails to mention Amazon, i mean Amazon hasn’t been sued yet. Is Facebook next? Probably. But Google should not be in this situation.
This lawsuit should have never been filed. This is absolute trash and I look forward to really hearing what Google uses to defend itself. I want to hear what they have.
That was pretty much the gist of it from the beginning, you get all you need to get from the first few pages of this. It’s this crazy world we live in.
Back to the politics of this right? Now, that we got this out of the way, what are the political optics of this? I mean you file this, days before the election, in hopes I mean is there a motive there? I don’t see one. Why the States sign on to this? I mean it’s pretty clear that Texas has made a play for tech specifically Austin for tech companies to relocate from other states such as California. Why isn’t California in this lawsuit? Because one of the state’s major taxpayers is cool? And Apple and Facebook? Even with the maintenance of share they get? They didn’t sign on to this. This is a republican, from a political standpoint, this is even a republican, I mean are republicans interested in taking on big tech? They didn’t even understand it.