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Judge questions US and Google over antitrust claims| GuyWhoKnowsThings

The judge who oversaw a landmark US antitrust challenge against Google tried to find loopholes in both sides' cases during final arguments Thursday as he weighs a ruling that could reshape the tech industry.

Justice Amit P. Mehta presided over the first day of final arguments in the most consequential technology antitrust case since the US government sued Microsoft in the late 1990s. The Justice Department has sued Google, accusing it of illegally propping up a monopoly in online search. Google has denied the claims.

On Thursday, Judge Mehta questioned the government's argument that Google's dominance had harmed the quality of the online information search experience. But he also pressed Google to defend its central argument that it is not a monopoly because consumers use other companies like Amazon to search for shopping items and TikTok to search for music clips.

“I certainly don't think the average person would say, 'Google and Amazon are the same thing,'” Judge Mehta said.

Its ruling, expected in the coming weeks or months, will help set a precedent for a series of government challenges to the size and power of the tech giants. Federal regulators have also filed antitrust lawsuits against Apple, Amazon and Meta, and a second case against Google over online advertising.

Before the start of closing arguments in a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia courtroom, Jonathan Kanterhead of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice, approached Kent Walker, president of global affairs at Google, to chat.

Judge Mehta began the proceedings by questioning Kenneth Dintzer, the Justice Department's lead attorney during the trial, about the innovation in the search.

The government has argued that a lack of competition in the online search business (where it claims nearly 90 percent of all searches are performed with Google) means Google does not need to invest in the quality of its search experience. But Judge Mehta told Mr. Dintzer that it would be difficult “to argue that today's searches are very different than 10 or 15 years ago” and that part of that change was due to Google's work.

“It seems like a difficult path for you to reach the conclusion that Google has not innovated enough,” Judge Mehta said.

The Justice Department also argued that because Google has a monopoly and does not face strong competition, it has not put privacy protections into its search engine. The judge interrupted Mr. Dintzer to say there may be a “trade-off” between privacy and the quality of the search. Judge Mehta added that his challenge was how to measure whether Google had done enough to protect users' privacy.

Judge Mehta urged Google's lead litigator, John E. Schmidtlein, arguing that companies like Amazon and ESPN are true competitors of its search engine. He noted that if he wanted to know who the shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles was in 1983, he would most likely use Google.

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