1. An open, vibrant internet is indispensable to American life. But today’s internet would not exist without the digital advertising revenue that, as a practical matter, funds its creation and expansion. The internet provides the public with unprecedented access to ideas, artistic expression, news, commerce, and services. Content creators span every conceivable industry; they publish diverse material on countless websites that inform, entertain, and connect society in vital ways. Yet the viability of many of these websites depends on their ability to sell digital advertising space. Just as newspaper, radio, and television organizations historically relied on advertising to fund their operations, today’s online publishers likewise rely on advertising revenue to support their activities and reach. But unlike historical media advertising, today’s online ads are bought and sold in enormous volumes in mere fractions of a second, using highly sophisticated tools and automated exchanges that more closely resemble a modern stock exchange than an old-fashioned, bilateral contract negotiation for newspaper ad space.
2. Website publishers in the United States sell more than 5 trillion digital display advertisements on the open web each year—or more than 13 billion advertisements every day. The sheer volume of these online ads make the offline advertisements of yesteryear pale in comparison. To put these numbers in perspective, the daily volume of digital display advertisements grossly outnumbers (by several multiples) the average number of stocks traded each day on the New York Stock Exchange. The digital display advertising business is also lucrative. Collectively, these advertisements generate more than $20 billion in revenue per year, just for publishers based in the United States.
3. To meet this demand, sophisticated technological tools, informally known as “ad tech,” have developed to automate advertising matchmaking between two key groups: website publishers and advertisers.  These tools have evolved such that today, every time an internet user opens a webpage with ad space to sell, ad tech tools almost instantly match that website publisher with an advertiser looking to promote its products or services to the website’s individual user. This process typically involves the use of an automated advertising exchange that runs a high-speed auction designed to identify the best match between a publisher selling internet ad space and the advertisers looking to buy it.
4. But competition in the ad tech space is broken, for reasons that were neither accidental nor inevitable. One industry behemoth, Google, has corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers, and brokers, to facilitate digital advertising. Having inserted itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace, Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.
5. Google’s plan has been simple but effective: (1) neutralize or eliminate ad tech competitors, actual or potential, through a series of acquisitions; and (2) wield its dominance across digital advertising markets to force more publishers and advertisers to use its products while disrupting their ability to use competing products effectively. Whenever Google’s customers and competitors responded with innovation that threatened Google’s stranglehold over any one of these ad tech tools, Google’s anticompetitive response has been swift and effective. Each time a threat has emerged, Google has used its market power in one or more of these ad tech tools to quash the threat. The result: Google’s plan for durable, industry-wide dominance has succeeded.
6. Google, a single company with pervasive conflicts of interest, now controls: (1) the technology used by nearly every major website publisher to offer advertising space for sale; (2) the leading tools used by advertisers to buy that advertising space; and (3) the largest ad exchange that matches publishers with advertisers each time that ad space is sold. Google’s pervasive power over the entire ad tech industry has been questioned by its own digital advertising executives, at least one of whom aptly begged the question: “[I]s there a deeper issue with us owning the platform, the exchange, and a huge network? The analogy would be if Goldman or Citibank owned the NYSE.”
7. By deploying opaque rules that benefit itself and harm rivals, Google has wielded its power across the ad tech industry to dictate how digital advertising is sold, and the very terms on which its rivals can compete. Google abuses its monopoly power to disadvantage website publishers and advertisers who dare to use competing ad tech products in a search for higher quality, or lower cost, matches. Google uses its dominion over digital advertising technology to funnel more transactions to its own ad tech products where it extracts inflated fees to line its own pockets at the expense of the advertisers and publishers it purportedly serves.
8. Google’s anticompetitive behavior has raised barriers to entry to artificially high levels, forced key competitors to abandon the market for ad tech tools, dissuaded potential competitors from joining the market, and left Google’s few remaining competitors marginalized and unfairly disadvantaged. Google has thwarted meaningful competition and deterred innovation in the digital advertising industry, taken supra-competitive profits for itself, and prevented the free market from functioning fairly to support the interests of the advertisers and publishers who make today’s powerful internet possible.
9. The harm is clear: website creators earn less, and advertisers pay more, than they would in a market where unfettered competitive pressure could discipline prices and lead to more innovative ad tech tools that would ultimately result in higher quality and lower cost transactions for market participants. And this conduct hurts all of us because, as publishers make less money from advertisements, fewer publishers are able to offer internet content without subscriptions, paywalls, or alternative forms of monetization. One troubling, but revealing, statistic demonstrates the point: on average, Google keeps at least thirty cents—and sometimes far more—of each advertising dollar flowing from advertisers to website publishers through Google’s ad tech tools. Google’s own internal documents concede that Google would earn far less in a competitive market.
10. The United States and Plaintiff States bring this action for violations of the Sherman Act to halt Google’s anticompetitive scheme, unwind Google’s monopolistic grip on the market, and restore competition to digital advertising.
 Internet advertisers include businesses, agencies of federal and state governments, charitable organizations, political candidates, public interest groups, and more. The money these advertisers spend on digital advertising creates an important stream of revenue for websites to use in creating, developing, and publishing website content.
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This court case 1:23-cv-00108 retrieved on September 8, 2023, from justice.gov is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.