Google has moved to court against an antitrust lawsuit in the US that alleged Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg were involved in a secret ad collusion plot.
Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the lawsuit which was filed last week alleged that Zuckerberg and Pichai “personally approved a secret deal that gave the social network a leg up in the search giant’s online advertising auctions”.
In a blog post late on Friday, Google said that the allegation that we somehow “colluded” with Facebook Audience Network (FAN) through our Open Bidding agreement is “simply not true”.
Google, which filed a motion in the court to dismiss thePaxton-led anti-trust complaint, said that we “don’t allocate ad space to FAN, they don’t receive speed advantages, and we don’t guarantee that they win any auction”.
“This is far from a secret deal. We announced FAN’s participation as one of over 25 partners in our Open Bidding programme, all of whom have signed their own agreements to participate,” said Adam Cohen, Director, Economic Policy at Google.
Google said that the lawsuit has now been rewritten three times.
“With each version, AG Paxton follows the same pattern: make inaccurate and inflammatory allegations, publicise them widely, and repeat. This playbook may generate attention, but it doesn’t make for a credible antitrust lawsuit,” the company stressed.
“The complaint misrepresents our business, products and motives, and we are moving to dismiss it based on its failure to offer plausible antitrust claims,” Google added.
The lawsuit was originally filed in December 2020, and was updated with a heavily-redacted version in November last year.
The initial complaint alleged collusion between the two tech giants, particularly in a project codenamed “Jedi Blue”.
The “Jedi Blue” deal was reviewed at the highest levels of both companies, with personal involvement from Pichai, Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Zuckerberg, it alleged.
Meta has already denied that the arrangement was illegal.
“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped to increase competition for ad placements,” Meta spokesperson Christopher Sgro had said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee in the US has approved a key antitrust reform that would ban Big Tech from favouring their own services and products over those of their rivals.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is a bipartisan bill spearheaded by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).