The Google Suit: We’re All Anti-Monopolists Now

Matt Stoller:

I bring this up because the Google suit is a stunning change in the consensus underpinning American politics. The complaint itself a tight, well-reasoned, and nicely framed case, and the scope will likely broaden over the next few months. What the DOJ is arguing is basically a carbon copy of the Microsoft case of the late 1990s, where the government accused Microsoft of illegally tying Internet Explorer to Microsoft Windows. Today, the DOJ is accusing Google of illegally tying Search to its mobile phone operating system Android and its browser Chrome. And the government is seeking to break up Google.

The details of the case aren’t particularly important for the purpose of this essay, but if you want to know them, you can read the complaint here or read my colleague Sarah Miller’s write-up in the Guardian.

Ideologically, this complaint is just a stunning victory for anti-monopolists, who largely congregated on the progressive and Democratic side of the aisle. Republicans have been traditionally hostile to antitrust doctrine, but are now shifting. Take the words of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who said in response to the suit, “I commend the Department for finally holding Google accountable. When it comes to big tech, this is just the beginning. Winter is coming.” It’s an aggressive comment from any political leader, and it’s coming from a conservative Republican.

What a sea change! Remember, it was the George W. Bush administration that pulled back on the original Microsoft case, and it was Ronald Reagan himself who orchestrated the narrowing of antitrust law in the first place. And this isn’t some partisan power grab either; Leticia James, New York’s Attorney General and a staunch Democrat, said she is conducting her own investigation (along with a bunch of states), and is going to join the DOJ case.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.