Top bosses at Google and Facebook were directly involved in approving a 2018 allegedly illegal deal to bolster their dominance in the online advertising market, US court documents revealed Friday.
The records, part of an antitrust lawsuit by a coalition of US states targeting Google, make serious allegations against Big Tech giants long accused of owning monopolies.
According to the allegations made by the states, the online search giant tried to drive out competition by manipulating ad auctions – the ultra-sophisticated system that determines which ads appear on web pages based on the anonymized profiles of Internet users.
The legal documents filed in a New York court clearly refer to Sundar Pichai, head of Google’s parent company Alphabet, as well as Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg — even if their names had been redacted.
“Google CEO Sundar Pichai also personally signed the terms of the deal,” the indictment said.
The documents state that the economic terms were emailed to Facebook’s CEO, advising him: “‘We are almost ready to sign and need your approval to proceed.'”
Google did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, but has stubbornly denied manipulating the digital advertising market.
It was the third time the lawsuit had been amended and Facebook or its parent company Meta were not listed as defendants.
“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements,” a spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“These business relationships allow Meta to deliver more value to advertisers and fairly compensate publishers, resulting in better outcomes for everyone.”
Google referred to the agreement internally as “Jedi Blue,” the color being a reference to Facebook’s logo, according to the filing.
“No rational developer would choose to have its auctions manipulated by the market’s two biggest buyers,” the indictment said.
“So Google and Facebook swore themselves to secrecy about the terms of their agreement.”
The antitrust case is one of three that Google is addressing on several fronts.
The US government filed its blockbuster lawsuit last October, accusing Google of maintaining an “illegal monopoly” in online search and advertising.
It is the country’s largest antitrust case in decades and opens the door to a possible breakup of the Silicon Valley titan.
While Google’s ad revenue has continued to grow, Google’s share of the booming US online advertising market is declining due to pressure from competitors such as Facebook, Amazon and others, according to eMarketer.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)