Ohio Files Lawsuit Demanding Google Be Declared Public Utility (Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Tuesday, 08 June 2021 04:33 PM
The court should declare that Google be treated as a public utility, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a lawsuit he filed on Tuesday, The Hill reported.
Such a pronouncement would make Google subject to government regulation.
The complaint filed by Yost, a Republican is the first such lawsuit against Google by a state and alleges that the Silicon Valley powerhouse has used its dominance as a search engine to favor its own products over “organic search results” in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.”
Yost said in a statement that “Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products – that's discriminatory and anti-competitive,” insisting that when you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access."
The complaint alleges that as a result of Google’s “self-preferencing Results-page architecture,” almost two-thirds of Google searches last year were completed without users leaving Google-owned platforms.
Yost argues that such techniques prevent Ohioans from the ability to make informed choices, because they are not given full access to all available information, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Ohio attorney general explained, for example, that a search for a flight might direct a user to Google Flights and not surface the travel offerings of other non-Google services such as Orbitz and Travelocity.
A Google spokesperson countered these claims by saying that “this lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we'll defend ourselves against it in court,” insisting that “Ohioans simply don't want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company,” The Hill reported.
The spokesman added that the lawsuit would only “make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers.”
Google is already facing a host of other battles, including an antitrust lawsuit filed in December by 37 bipartisan attorneys general, with Yost among them, that focused on the tech giant’s online search market power.
In addition, Google is also dealing with a separate lawsuit from states, also filed in December, alleging that it stifled competition in the advertising technology market.
The Justice Department has also launched a lawsuit against Google over its search policies.
Outside of the United States, the company is also dealing with cases worldwide, where its powerhouse status as a search provider has spurred regulators to attempt to reign in its dominance, according to the Wall Street Journal.