Is Google's looming monopoly trial a watershed moment for Big Tech?

The federal government's first major antitrust action in decades could set a major precedent for internet giants

Courthouse with google search text
Google and the Justice Department will finally meet in court next week for the start of the "first monopoly trial of the modern internet era."
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

Given the ubiquitous profile that Google — and its evolved corporate umbrella entity Alphabet — enjoys across multiple industries today, it can be easy to forget that the company whose very name has become synonymous with the act of looking things up online has only been around since 1998. In that time, Google has gone from being a search engine to the search engine, helping in large part to define the internet as we experience it in our daily lives, both consciously and not. Its smart assistants are in our homes; its phones are in our pockets; its cars are driving themselves down our streets; and at the center of it all is Google's algorithmically fueled search engine — the beating heart of a corporation with a net worth larger than many countries.

Three years ago, the Department of Justice began investigating whether Google's global search dominance was the result not simply of a stellar product, but of potentially criminal machinations. In 2020, the federal government alongside a number of state governments filed antitrust charges against the company, alleging that Google held an industry-wide monopoly bolstered by "implementing and enforcing a series of exclusionary agreements with distributors over at least the last decade." Though its genesis may have been a "scrappy startup" with an "innovative" method for internet searches, "that Google is long gone," prosecutors wrote, alleging the company had instead become a "monopoly gatekeeper" for digital spaces, overseeing "nearly 90 percent of all general-search-engine queries in the United States, and almost 95 percent of queries on mobile devices."

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