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What the Google Ads Antitrust Lawsuit Doesn’t Say

Photo: Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Antitrust lawsuits are meant to make their targets look bad, and the Texas attorney general’s long-anticipated case filed on Wednesday against Google for allegedly using advertising technology to muscle out competitors is no exception. There are the “Star Wars”–related code names Google used to describe its secret plans to win back lost market share in its business of brokering automated ad sales for website publishers. And there’s the secret agreement between Google and Facebook—which one source told The Information both companies’ CEOs signed off on—to further such goals.

What the lawsuit doesn’t say is that the advertising tech industry was already rife with questionable practices by rival firms that sometimes gave advantages to publishers that sold ad space at the expense of advertisers who bought it or vice versa, according to current and former ad tech industry execs who didn’t work at Google. That could make it easier for Google to argue that it made the market for buying and selling ads online more efficient and transparent, thus increasing its overall size, even if some moves enlarged Google’s dominance and hurt publishers because they led to lower ad prices.

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