A federal judge today ruled that an antitrust case against Google LLC led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will proceed, although the judge said the allegation that Google had unfairly colluded with Meta Platforms Inc. in 2018 will be dismissed.

The lawsuit, brought by Paxton and 16 other states, accuses Google of using its monopoly power in the online advertising business. Paxton first filed the case in 2020, accusing Google of abusing its power to secure immense profits in what he called the largest auction in the world.

“Google’s anticompetitive practices have broken antitrust laws, and I will hold them accountable,” he said in 2021 after an amendment to his case. “The amended complaint details how Google, which earns revenue of over $700 million a day, engages in unlawful monopoly conduct, secretly manipulating the largest auction market in the world to the detriment of competition, publishers, advertisers, and consumers.”

Today, Judge P. Kevin Castel said that the state AGs have a plausible case. But he dismissed one of the most prominent aspects of their lawsuit. That is the accusation that Google colluded with what was then Facebook Inc. in a deal dubbed “Jedi Blue,” which in short was a multimillion-dollar handshake that suited both companies. At the time, Google said the allegation lacked any merit, and it appears Castel agrees.

“The states’ allegations are not plausible because they fail to adequately account for Facebook’s motivation to use its economic clout as an advertiser to drive the hardest bargain it could with Google,” Castel said. “Google was motivated by the legitimate, pro-competitive desire to obtain as much business as possible from Facebook.”

In a post today, Google claimed that this was a resounding victory, saying that the Meta collusion allegation was the “centerpiece” of the entire case. “Today’s decision underscores how AG Paxton’s case is deeply flawed,” Google wrote. “As we’ve long said, advertising technology is a fiercely competitive industry — and our products increase choice for publishers, advertisers and consumers while enabling small businesses to affordably find new customers. We look forward to setting the record straight about the remaining claims.”

Photo: Pawel Czerwinski/Unsplash

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