business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From Axios:

"The Justice Department and eight states on Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google's parent company Alphabet, accusing the tech giant of illegally abusing its dominance in digital advertising and violating the Sherman Antitrust Act … It's the second major antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by the Justice Department in the last three years, and if successful it could force Google sell off much of its ad business."

The story notes that "the DOJ and a coalition of state attorneys general sued Google in 2020 for allegedly using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets. That lawsuit is ongoing."

The Washington Post writes that "the action poses a significant financial threat to the company, which has been slashing jobs amid a pullback in advertising. The suit seeks to force Google to sell off much of its advertising technology products, which enable the buying, selling and placement of ads across Google Search, YouTube and millions of other websites. The company’s advertising “network” brought in $7.9 billion for the company in the third quarter of 2022, about the same as all of Google’s revenue from YouTube."

The new complaint says that "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."

Axios writes that "the suit is seeking a judgment that Google has unlawfully monopolized both the publisher ad server market and advertiser ad network in the U.S. and acted unlawfully by tying products together."

The lawsuit is indicative of a new aggressiveness on the part of the federal government when it comes to antitrust and big tech at a time when "Google is already under heavy antitrust scrutiny around the world and faces anger from U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle."  It also comes as Google's ad business has been softening because of economic pressures and increased competition.

The New York Times writes that "the Biden administration is trying to use uncommon legal theories to clip the wings of some of America’s largest businesses. The F.T.C. recently asked a judge to block Meta from buying a virtual-reality start-up, a rare case that argues a deal could harm potential competition in a nascent market. The agency has also challenged Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of the video game publisher Activision Blizzard, a notable action because the two companies are not primarily seen as direct competitors.

"These efforts are expected to meet fierce resistance in federal courts. Judges have for decades subscribed to a view that antitrust violations should mostly be determined by whether they increase prices for consumers. But Jonathan Kanter, the chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and Lina Khan, the F.T.C. chair, have said they are willing to lose cases that allow them to stretch the boundaries of the law and that put corporate America on notice."

•  From the BBC:

"Amazon workers are staging the first ever UK strike on Wednesday against the online giant in a protest over pay.

"Around 300 staff walked out at Amazon's Coventry warehouse, the GMB union said, over what they called a 'derisory' 5% pay rise to £10.50 an hour.

"Workers told the BBC about 'severe' conditions, claiming they are constantly monitored and upbraided for 'idle time' lasting just a few minutes.

"Amazon said it has a system 'that recognises great performance'.  A spokesman said it 'also encourages coaching to help employees improve if they are not meeting their performance goals'.

"Two Amazon workers, who are members of the GMB, said the robots in the warehouse 'are treated better than us'."

The fact is that robots never have to pee, don't need to be fed, and at least so far, don't ponder the possible advantages of union representation.   What do you expect?