United Kingdom

Mail files antitrust lawsuit against Google

Mailonline/DailyMail.com is suing Google for alleged anti-competitive behavior over the search giant's ability to exploit its dominance in the ad tech industry to harm rivals and manipulate ad auctions and news search results in a way that punishes online publishers.

The anti-trust lawsuit against Google was filed in the US District Court in New York on Tuesday by Associated Newspapers Ltd. and Mail Media Inc, the parent company of DailyMail.com and MailOnline.

The lawsuit accuses Google of utilizing its market power dominance to increase profits for themselves by engaging in bid-rigging and search bias that harms publishers and advertising rivals.

It is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed against Google by the US Justice Department and attorneys general in several states that accuses the tech company of monopolization and eliminating its competition.

Separately, anti-trust enforcers in the US, UK and Australia have also been investigating Google's conduct. 

DailyMail.com is suing Google for alleged anti-competitive behavior over the search giant's ability to exploit its dominance in the ad tech industry to harms rivals and manipulate ad auctions and news search results

The new lawsuit filed by Daily Mail alleges that Google has illegally built its dominant position in the ad tech industry over the last decade and now controls the tools that publishers and advertisers use to buy and sell online ad space in what has become a $125 billion industry.

These tools include the software that publishers use to sell ad inventory and the marketplace, referred to as an exchange, where millions of ad slots are sold in auctions each day.

Google exploits its control of those ad tech tools by forcing publishers to use its own ad server, which it has tied to its own exchange, in a bid to stamp out competition from rival exchanges, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the complaint, Google makes it difficult for publishers to compare prices among different exchanges, reduces the number of exchanges that can submit bids for ad space and even uses bids offered by rival exchanges to set its own bids.

This lack of competition means Google ends up ahead because it controls a growing share of the ad space that remains, the lawsuit alleges.

'This lawsuit is to hold Google to account for their continued anti-competitive behavior including manipulation of ad auctions and news search results, bid rigging, algorithm bias and exploiting its market power to harm their advertising rivals,' a Daily Mail spokesman said.  

According to the complaint, Google punishes publishers by allegedly manipulating search rankings if they do not sell enough advertising space through the tech company's own exchange. For example, keywords related to Daily Mail's recent coverage of the UK royals and Piers Morgan, who is DailyMail.com's editor at large, has not prominently shown up in Google search results

'Despite increased criticism by regulators and governments around the world, Google's ongoing behavior clearly shows they are not prepared to change their conduct.

'DailyMail.com brings this antitrust action for compensation and for injunctive relief to restore competition in the monopolized markets and safeguard news content for readers. This includes, but isn't limited to the elimination of forced tying of products, bid rigging and bias in news search results, while also providing transparency when they make changes to their algorithm.

'DailyMail.com is a world leader in digital news and is taking this necessary action to address Google's harm to publishers and to protect freedom of speech.'

According to the complaint, Google punishes publishers by allegedly manipulating search rankings if they do not sell enough advertising space through the tech company's own exchange.

For example, keywords related to Daily Mail's recent coverage of the UK royals and Piers Morgan, who is DailyMail.com's editor at large, has not prominently shown up in Google search results.

Data shows that the Daily Mail's visibility share on Google's search results pages was just 1.65 percent for search terms 'Harry and Meghan' between March 1 to March 11 compared to the BBC's 16.62 percent.

Daily Mail's share for the keywords 'Piers Morgan' accounted for 1.57 percent of visibility share on Google. Meanwhile, the Independent and the Guardian had 13.7 percent and 11.8 percent visibility in search. 

The keyword 'Prince Phillip' had 1.34 percent visibility share on Google, compared to the BBC's 17 percent.    

According to the complaint, Google punishes publishers by allegedly manipulating search rankings if they do not sell enough advertising space through the tech company's own exchange. Back in June 2019, Google allegedly punished Daily Mail over a three month period (above) by causing it to disappear from its search results overnight

Back in June 2019, Google allegedly punished Daily Mail over a three month period by causing it to disappear from its search results because the news publisher wasn't selling as much ad inventory through the search giant's exchange.

Despite Google's assurances to Daily Mail there were no issues with the search algorithm, the lawsuit alleges the tech company regularly modifies the search results page and algorithm to favor certain publishers.

The lawsuit alleges that Daily Mail's search traffic was 'restored' by Google 'as quickly as it disappeared' in September 2019 after being forced to sell twice as much inventory through Google's exchange.

The federal lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified damages, is demanding Google discontinue its alleged misconduct and offer transparency into its search algorithm. 

Google is facing similar allegations in a lawsuit filed by Texas and a group of other states in December. 

That lawsuit, which is one of a series filed against Google and Facebook late last year, was filed in Texas and brands Google as an 'internet Goliath'.

It focuses on the company's ad-tech dominance and accuses it of breaking antitrust law in how it runs its online advertising business. 

The suit was prompted by complaints by publishers and other businesses whose publications rely on advertising revenue to survive. 

'Google repeatedly used its monopolistic power to control pricing (and) engage in market collusions to rig auctions in a tremendous violation of justice,' Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said at the time.  

He added that Google 'eliminated its competition and crowned itself the king of online advertising'.

'If the free market was a baseball game, Google positioned itself as the pitcher, the batter and the umpire,' Paxton said. 

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