Google’s trial begins today. The Department of Justice has sued the tech giant for cornering more than 90 percent of the search engine market. The government argues that this dominance reflects anticompetitive practices, while Google counters that its search engine is simply a preferred service.
“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,” notes NPR. “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.”
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) September 12, 2023
At issue are the deals in place between Google and cell phone manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Verizon. Google pays billions of dollars to these companies to ensure that its search engine is the default on their phones. The federal government claims these arrangements are illegal and unfair to smaller search engines, like DuckDuckGo.
Google has countered that its search engine is more popular by far—in fact, if it was not the default search engine on most cell phones, there is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of customers would choose it anyway. As The Wall Street Journal points out, Windows computers do not come preloaded with Google, but most users swiftly download Google anyway.
The suit was first brought by the Trump administration. Former Attorney General William Barr said the 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.”
There is little doubt that Google commands a significant market share and that its deals with cell phone manufacturers come at the expense of rival search engines. But the relevant question is whether this hurts consumers. For most people, Google is the entrance point to the internet. If they wanted a different way to search, there are plenty available. DOJ’s suit implicitly argues that the federal government knows us better than we know ourselves—even though our revealed preferences suggest that we like Google perfectly fine.
Foes of government overreach should be rooting for another big loss. The Google trial is set to last for three months. Judge Amit P. Mehta, an Obama appointee, will decide the case.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) wants the government to investigate Elon Musk following news that he prevented Ukraine from accessing Starlink when the country tried to attack a Russian warship. According to Bloomberg:
“The Congress needs to investigate what’s happened here and whether we have adequate tools to make sure foreign policy is conducted by the government and not by one billionaire,” the Massachusetts Democrat said Monday at the Capitol.
Musk, the chief executive officer of SpaceX, is expected to be among the technology industry chiefs to attend a closed-door summit with senators at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Warren, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said she also wants the Defense Department to look into its contractual relationship with the company.
Perhaps Warren could investigate why Congress has outsourced its war-making powers to the executive branch. Technically, it’s Warren and her colleagues who are supposed to be responsible for such foreign policy decisions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an updated coronavirus vaccine, which is designed to counter the XBB.1.5 strain of omicron. That strain is no longer dominant, though the FDA believes the new vaccine will still offer significant cross-protection. “Like earlier versions, they’re expected to be most protective against COVID-19’s worst consequences rather than mild infection,” reports the Associated Press.
That admission, however, is a good reminder that many of the vaccine mandates were premised on the idea vaccination would significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 by preventing transmission to other people. People were encouraged—and in many cases, forced—to get vaccinated, not just for their own sakes, but also in the service of public health.
The federal government should continue to rapidly approve new COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics so that anyone who wants them is free to take them. But it must never again go down the dark path of denying this choice to millions of Americans.
- The Biden administration has reached a prisoner exchange deal with Iran.
- Will student loan repayments resume as part of the debt ceiling deal?
- Devastating earthquakes in Morocco have killed more than 2,800 people.
- North Korean President Kim Jong Un is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.