Google search antitrust judge admits he has “no idea” how he will rule


The federal judge who will determine the fate of Google’s online search empire admitted he still has “no idea” how he expects to rule in the landmark antitrust trial.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta made this frank admission near the conclusion of the evidentiary sentence in the sprawling 10-week trial in Washington, DC.

He heard testimony from a list of more than 50 witnesses that included people like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who was questioned over the company’s deleted chat logs, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who called “ false” the concept of user choice in online search engines. “

“I can tell you, as I sit here today, I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Mehta said near the end of the hearing.

Mehta ordered lawyers from the Justice Department and Google to submit their final briefs on the trial by February 9 of next year.

The judge won’t hear final arguments in the case until May 1-3, meaning a final ruling is still months away.

Judge Amit Mehta presented closing arguments by May.
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Both Mehta and Google faced intense public criticism over the unprecedented secrecy of the proceedings, with several high-profile witnesses testifying in closed session at the start of the trial and key trial evidence initially shielded from public view. At one point, a website operated by the Justice Department with published evidence was taken offline, although access was eventually restored after an outcry.

When pressured by outside groups early in the trial to block Google’s attempts to seal the courtroom to key witnesses, Mehta stated that he was “relying heavily on the plaintiffs, who represent the public interest” to tell him whether it was “objectionable” to protect testimony.

After The Post and other media outlets pushed for greater transparency, Mehta expanded access to the trial.

Matt Stoller, research director at the American Economic Liberties Project, one of the antitrust watchdogs that has criticized Mehta’s oversight, said the judge’s public declaration of uncertainty showed he is a “lightweight” who has been too skittish. in its management. of the proceedings.

“He never wants to make a decision,” Stoller said. “He always says, ‘let me try to find a compromise between what both groups want.’ You can’t just try to split the baby all the time. That’s why it’s a big problem for him.”

Mehta will have the final say on whether Google violated antitrust law and illegally maintained a monopoly over the online search market while building a whopping 90% market share.

If the judge decides that Google did indeed violate the law, a second trial will be held to determine an appropriate remedy.

That could include relatively simple changes, such as requiring Google to implement a “choice screen” for users, or larger changes, such as forcing the company to discontinue certain business practices or even sell parts of its business.

Justice Department lawyers have argued that Google relies on massive payments to partners like Apple and AT&T (including $26.3 billion in 2021) to ensure its search engine is enabled by default in most products.

Google has approximately 90% of the search market.

During the trial, the feds called experts who testified that defaults are an exceptionally powerful tool for maintaining a user base and that changing defaults is a complicated process for many users.

The Justice Department called its final “rebuttal witnesses” this week after Google concluded its defense. One of the witnesses, MIT economics professor Michael Whinston, claimed that Google was distributing profits from its search monopoly to partner companies through its predetermined contracts.

“Google made a lot of profit on these contracts,” Whinston said.

Google’s legal team has rejected that argument, saying the payments are fair compensation and proof that the company is locked in competition with other search competitors.

The tech giant also claimed that users can change their default search engine with just a few clicks.

Additionally, Google claims that users select its search engine because it is the best product of its kind on the market.

With post cables


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