Google’s dominant online advertising business targeted by US lawmakers

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A bipartisan group of senators intends to introduce legislation this week that would force Alphabet Inc.’s Google to sell off some of its lucrative ad tech business, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The bill, led by Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, would ban companies with more than $20 billion in digital ad revenue from owning the tools to help buy and sell ads online and from operate the exchange where these transactions take place.

The measure would also require companies with more than $5 billion in digital ad revenue to act in the best interests of customers and provide greater transparency on data collection, winning bid terms and the fees they charge. – which would have major implications for Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc., owners of Facebook and Instagram.

Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are also sponsors of the bill, said the people, who declined to be identified because plans to introduce the bill are not yet public.

Representatives for Google, Amazon and Facebook and a spokesperson for Lee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Google’s dominance in the ad tech market — the tools used to buy, sell and display online ads that help fund many websites — has come under intense antitrust scrutiny.

Attorneys general from 15 states plus Puerto Rico sued Google in December 2020 for allegedly monopolizing the market.

This effort, led by Texas, accuses Google and Facebook, the No. 1 and No. 2 players in online advertising, of reaching a secret illegal pact in 2018 to divide the market for advertising on websites and applications.

Facebook and Google deny that their agreement was illegal.

The Department of Justice has been investigating Google’s ad tech activities since 2018, and European authorities have opened their own antitrust probes into the Google-Facebook deal, dubbed Jedi Blue.

Google is expected to generate $174.81 billion in net digital ad revenue this year, an increase of 17.3%, according to Insider Intelligence analyst Paul Verna. This gives it a 29% share of the global digital advertising market. Facebook is second with a 21.4% share.

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