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Indian American judge to decide whether Google at 25 will be the same at 26

Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) An Indian American federal judge will determine the future of Google — the technology giant which is also headed by an Indian American — in an antitrust trial that’s currently underway in a Washington D.C. court.

It’s the largest tech monopoly case of the 21st century that could reshape the search engine giant and the internet as it exists now. It’s being compared in scale to the antitrust trial against Microsoft in 1998, which the tech giant lost.

The trial is expected to last three months in the federal court of Judge Amit Mehta, who was born in Patan, Gujarat and came to the US with his parents when he was one. Sunder Pichai, the Google CEO, who was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu and came to the US after his early studies. They are almost the same age; Mehta is 52, older than Pichai by a year. And Judge Mehta will decide the outcome, not a jury.

Google at 25 is facing a moment of reckoning.

“Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy start-up with an innovative way to search the emerging internet,” the Justice Department wrote in its 2020 complaint that is the basis of the trial. “That Google is long gone.”

“The Google of today is a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet, and one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, with a market value of $1 trillion and annual revenue exceeding $160 billion,” the complaint said further. It’s worth $1.7 trillion now. “For many years, Google has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising—the cornerstones of its empire.”

The Justice Department said the purpose of the complaint is to “restrain Google LLC (Google) from unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices, and to remedy the effects of this conduct”.

At the heart of the monopoly complaint is that Google pays billions to companies such as Apple and Samsung to make Google the default search engine on their devices and to web browsers like Mozilla. It just does not allow competitors any room to grow.

Google accounts for 95 per cent of search engine usage in the US.

In its defence, Google has argued that people opt to use its search engine because of its superior quality. “They are not forced to use it and can easily switch to other search engines.”

Thirty-five states and Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have filed a nearly identical lawsuit, which is being processed along with the main complaint filed by the justice department. After the initial hearings that were public, the trial is now proceeding in secrecy as Google and other tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft argued public discussion of their commercial secrets will jeopardize the companies.

The search giant founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin has also faced grilling from lawmakers in the US over the same antitrust concerns.

In 2020, Pichai was questioned at a congressional hearing along with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple. Republican lawmakers had accused the CEOs of anti-conservative bias at the same hearing.

But the hearing led to nothing very much. Lawmakers merely vented their frustrations, whichever side it fell, and moved on. But the trial in the federal court in Washington DC has the potential to change Google and, indeed, the internet.

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