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26 Jan 2023

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Google Fighting Multiple Governments and History in Antitrust Battles

With Google in the figurative crosshairs of the US Dept. of Justice (DOJ) for alleged monopolistic digital advertising practices, the company is also facing pressure from the country of India, with its 1.4 billion people.

India's Supreme Court has upheld what Reuters referred to as “stringent directives” in how Google manages its Android mobile device platform. The court confirmed an October 2022 decision by the government's Competition Commission of India (CCI) to require Google to allow third-party apps to be independently installed, to let users choose a search engine other than Google, and even for companies to fork Android in the Indian market.

The CCI announced in its press release no. 56 2022/23 that it had also fined Google more than 9 billion rupees (about US$115 million) for its past behavior in these areas.

Google followed the decision up on January 25 2023 by announcing it will allow comply with the CCI order and Supreme Court's upholding of it.

The company complained slightly in a blog post that "implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.”

This after earlier complaints that the CCI decision had a lot of cut-and-paste from a 2017 European Commission decision that Google had violated antitrust rules in the EU. The fine imposed by that decision was more than 2.4 billion euro (about $2.6 billion).

Those Who Remember History...
Massive DOJ actions against dominant tech companies are a feature of US jurisprudence. The federal government pursued a case against IBM from 1969 until 1982, which it ultimately lost but damaged IBM enough along the way to end Big Blue's industry dominance.

Another famous action against Microsoft began with inquiries in 1992, a settlement in 1994, then relitigation in 1998 that ended up with an order to break up the company in 2000 – the precipitating incident of the dot-com crash that year that ultimately wiped $7 trillion of paper wealth from public markets.

That case was reversed in 2001 after presiding Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson exhibited an extraordinary lack of judgement in discussing his bias against Microsoft executives with reporters. Microsoft ultimately prevailed, as had IBM in the earlier case, but as a company that did indeed lose its previous grip on the industry.

Now a new, “DOJ 3.0” era has been launched with announcement of the action against Google. Will this suit take years and years to resolve? And will it ultimately change the nature of Google as a company, as the earlier suits did to IBM and Microsoft?

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