Antitrust Action Against Google May Transform the Internet

A global court and regulatory battle could have ramifications far beyond the news

Antitrust Action Against Google May Transform the Internet
Google CEO Sundar Pichai leaves federal court last October in Washington, D.C, after testifying in a lawsuit against his company. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In early 2022, lawmakers in the EU received a curious request from the Biden administration. In an eight-point paper revealed to Politico, the U.S. urged Europe to tweak the rules of a proposed suite of laws governing the Googles and Facebooks of the world in order to go after more than just American companies. It was a reasonable request in one sense — countries have the right to ensure their businesses aren’t targeted unfairly.

The strange thing was that the Biden administration was also hard at work suing one of those same companies. That company was Google, the $1.8 trillion tech behemoth that wields monopolies over key components of the internet, like search and advertising, and extracts enormous profits as a result. Its growth mirrors that of other tech giants like Microsoft, Meta and Apple, platform owners who have become similarly dominant in different spheres of the digital world and whose positions are coming under increased scrutiny worldwide.

Such platforms, critics say, have used devious means to squash competitors, limiting competition in the digital world to the detriment of just about everyone who uses the internet. As the internet’s front door, Google is emblematic of the new, global fight against big tech. The tale of the battle against its practices spans the Atlantic, from Washington courthouses to Brussels and the offices of the U.K. Parliament, and the next part of its story could well change the very nature of the internet.

The latest chapter was set in Canada. In June 2023, the Canadian government found itself in a tussle with Meta and Google over a new law diverting a share of their revenues toward the country’s struggling news industry. The government argued that because the tech giants’ advertising models derived an outsized share of revenue from news publishers’ content, the media should get a cut. The Canadian law took inspiration from an earlier move by Australia, which succeeded in diverting some $130 million from Meta and Google toward its own news industry.

Yet while in Australia Meta and Google quickly acquiesced to the new rules, there was a different outcome in Canada. Meta blocked news content from all its services in the country, and Google threatened to do the same before reaching a favorable deal with the government. To this day, news content remains blocked on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users.

Speaking to New Lines in October 2023, Andrew MacLeod, the CEO of Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest news publishers, marveled at the strength of his opponents in the struggle over news revenue.

“Google and Facebook play hardball,” he said. “They are labyrinths. They are global in their scope. They are arguably some of the most dominant corporations we’ve ever seen in the history of capitalism.”

Journalists aren’t the only ones hurt by tech’s stranglehold on digital advertising. We use the web because, at the simplest level, people make websites, put neat stuff on there and are rewarded through advertising revenue generated by their viewers. The more ad revenue that reaches them, the more and better content they can provide, no fee necessary. Anything that gets in the way of that exchange, however, hurts both user and producer. And therein lies the problem, because Google is the middleman, and it takes a big cut: 30 cents on every dollar spent on digital advertising worldwide, nearly a third of the cash-for-creativity model that provides the content you love.

When that happens, everyone suffers: Paywalls go up. Subscriptions are demanded. Ads multiply across the page. Everyone loses — everyone but Google. That means that while the likes of MacLeod might be fighting Google because of business interests, the kinds of changes they are looking for could have wide-ranging benefits. A less monopolistic Google could mean more cash in creators’ pockets and more content to enjoy.

But it won’t be easy. For one thing, the likes of Google and Meta have become international companies, delivering great global clout for their native United States — and that means geopolitics comes into play. For another, leviathans are hard to kill.

“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet here,” MacLeod said. “I think it’s a combination of competition review, antitrust review, courts and legislation all working in concert.”

Yet improbably, each of these things is happening. Both the U.K. and the European Union are beginning to regulate big tech. U.S. prosecutors are taking on Google and are hoping for a favorable major verdict in May. And, as predicted, it’s getting geopolitical. The global battle against big tech has begun, and it could have ramifications far beyond the news.

Google is an American company, born in 1998 to two doctoral students studying at Stanford University. The U.S. could also be where it draws its last breath: Two court cases brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) threaten to break up the company, divesting its most valuable business lines and fining it millions.

That isn’t just a problem for one California boardroom. Chances are that most everything on your screen while browsing the web has Google’s fingerprints on it, and now that the DOJ is suing the company, it is taking on every pixel.

Say you used Google Search to find this story. While there, you will have seen ads at the top of the page that look like search results, but say “Ad” or “Sponsored.” Those are ad spots offered by Google to third parties, and they are subject to the case U.S. et al. v. Google (2020), which alleges that Google uses anti-competitive practices to monopolize the American internet search market. Then, perhaps you clicked one of the search result links and opened this story. New Lines, blessedly, doesn’t run banner ads, but you have seen them before: annoying widgets on the top, bottom and side of the page. The vast majority of those ads are run by Google, which is the subject of another lawsuit, U.S. et al. v. Google (2023).

But wait, there’s more: Did you use Chrome, Gmail, Safari or Firefox to get there? Or perhaps you did any of this from an Android or an iPhone? That’s all under the scope of the 2020 lawsuit as well.

If it seems like the U.S. is suing the entire internet, it’s because Google has managed to monopolize a serious chunk of the infrastructure that makes it run. New Lines reviewed over 200 pages of DOJ lawsuits to get a sense of the DOJ’s assault on Google, and the scale is indeed massive.

Take Google Search. Nearly 90% of the market for internet searches in the U.S. is occupied by Google, with its nearest competitor, Bing, making up only 6%. As the DOJ puts it in its 2020 suit, “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun … but also a verb that means to search the internet.” Thanks to this position, Google makes over $80 billion per year from the ads it sells in Search. It also controls nearly the entirety of the web’s advertising market, the financial lifeblood of the internet. In both cases, the DOJ alleges that Google has reached this point illegally, by using its market power to unfairly squash competitors, thus stifling innovation and allowing Google to charge inflated prices for its products.

Being a big, profitable search engine isn’t illegal in the U.S., but engaging in tricky business to stay that way is. In its 2020 suit, the DOJ accuses Google of unlawfully monopolizing the U.S. internet search market in three main ways. First, it spent millions on contracts with Apple, Mozilla, Samsung and Verizon to make Google Search the default search engine on all of those companies’ phones and internet browsers. That’s why when you type something into Safari, it turns into a Google search. Google also demands that if an Android manufacturer wants to preload any of its suite of apps, like Chrome, Gmail or Drive, it has to install all 11 apps in the collection. These agreements lock rival search engines like Bing out of phones and web browsers, limiting their market share from the get-go.

Google, for its part, has argued that its search engine is popular because it is the best product out there and has noted that Bing, Yahoo and other search services pay to be search options in Safari and Firefox. These are relatively easy to switch to, and besides, they argue, Microsoft preloads Bing on all Windows operating systems, and people almost always switch to Google Search as soon as they get the chance.

“Success doesn’t come from preloading,” wrote Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, in 2023. “It comes from innovation and offering helpful products that people want to use.”

The DOJ also argues that Google actively tried to weaken companies like Expedia, OpenTable and Amazon, which provide search functions for niche markets like hotel booking. Google both limited their visibility in searches and demanded access to their data — all while making its own widgets to do the same things.

Finally, the case alleges that Google used its search engine marketing tool to thwart competition. Called SA360, this product lets ad buyers purchase ads on Google’s advertising platform, Google Ads, as well as on Bing via Microsoft Ads. Google, according to the allegations in the lawsuit, seems to have purposely delayed implementing various features for Microsoft Ads, making Google Ads the better bet for advertisers, and hurting Microsoft in the process. (In response, Walker wrote that “American law doesn’t require putting the preferences of your competitors over those of your clients” and noted that Microsoft, with all its resources, hadn’t bothered to make its own such tool.)

Not all of this went to court: Google successfully argued that the bits regarding Expedia and its ilk weren’t worth bringing to trial, and the judge wasn’t convinced that Google’s preload specifications for Android apps were anti-competitive in the first place. Yet all the rest was deemed good to go, and a trial was held in the latter half of 2023. Google managed to limit the media’s access to the courtroom, but the DOJ’s arguments are freely available and a verdict is expected this spring.

To get an eye in the courtroom, New Lines spoke with Jason Kint, who heads the news media trade association Digital Content Next and was present at part of the trial. He watched as both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the former Google advertising executive and founder of search engine Neeva, Sridhar Ramaswamy, testified. Both claimed that Google’s hold on the search market was so absolute that neither could hope to compete.

“When you’ve got one of the largest companies on the planet describing search as the biggest software market on the planet, and then walking through why it’s nearly impossible for anyone to knock Google down a peg, it’s pretty insightful,” Kint says. Looming large in the courtroom was the prospect of AI, and its pattern-learning models that thrive on large datasets. With access to reams of data from every search query on the web, Google has an unprecedented advantage. “If the CEO of Microsoft is testifying that he’s concerned about Google entrenching its power because of the advent of AI, I think everyone should be concerned,” Kint says.

If Google is found liable, the judge could very well order it to break off parts of its business, opening up the possibility of a Google without Search. It will take time, though — a separate hearing will be needed to determine remedies, and Google can always appeal, dragging an already cumbersome trial through the upper echelons of the court system. Nevertheless, observers are optimistic the DOJ could win in the end. “The mood in D.C. is this was proof that a major enforcer can bring a case against a company as powerful as Google,” Kint says. All this, however, will be just an appetizer for yet another DOJ suit launched over Google’s ad business just last year. Brought by the DOJ and eight states, it alleges anti-competitive behavior at the very core of Google’s business model, and the architecture of the internet itself: Google Ads.

Every time you load a webpage that contains ads, a flurry of activity happens in a split second. First, the webpage notices that you’ve arrived and goes to a server to look through a number of potential ads to show you. Smaller advertisers compete for these spots on the page, and another tool holds an auction for your eyeballs. The webpage sends to the auction what it knows about you, informing the advertisers, who use yet a third tool to submit their bids. A digital auctioneer shouts, “Going once, going twice!” and the winning ad pops up on your screen.

It’s a neat system, and Google owns all of it. It owns the tool the website uses to sell ad space. It owns the tool used to conduct auctions. It owns the tool used by the advertisers. It is buyer, seller and auctioneer for 90% of the web’s advertising market. The market has made Google wildly rich and given it an incredible level of control over websites the world over.

It didn’t used to be this way. In the first decade of the 2000s, various other platforms offered similar advertising tools, in competition with Google and often at better prices. To squeeze them out, says the DOJ, Google used some classic monopoly moves. In the latter part of the decade, it boosted the prices advertisers would put forward on its auction system, as though anyone holding up a card reading $100 would be called in for $250. This was bad for bidders, but great for sellers, since it meant better prices. Any websites looking to sell ad space would do far better at Google’s auction, and naturally they favored it over the competition.

Once the websites were in, Google slammed the door. It managed to get publishers to grant it the sole authority to buy their inventory before it could be offered to any other auction house, and at artificially low prices to boot. Now, the sellers were getting screwed. Seeing this, competing auctions began offering services that would show publishers real-time prices for ads beyond Google, letting them shop for better deals. To thwart this, Google bought AdMeld, the largest such service, shut it down and banned its users from using any other site offering a similar service.

Website owners kept trying to squirm out of Google’s grasp. In 2012, they started using a technique called “header bidding,” embedding code in their sites that gave non-Google ad providers the ability to bid for their space before Google’s rules kicked in. According to the DOJ, Google internally calculated that this method gave website owners 40% more revenue than Google’s own services and called the practice an “existential threat.” Thwarting competition was now a core part of its business model.

It took every trick in Google’s arsenal to kill header bidding. It introduced a competing service, Open Bidding, that the DOJ termed a “Trojan horse” for looking similar to header bidding, yet containing hidden rules operating in Google’s favor. It signed deals with Facebook and Amazon redirecting advertising back to Google’s services and lowered bids to sites using header bidding while ensuring the same spots were won on their own auction. Only a company with enormous market power could do this.

In a blog post attributed to Google’s vice president of global ads, Dan Taylor, on the eve of the ad tech lawsuit’s release, Google hit back, arguing that the DOJ is “doubling down on a flawed argument that would slow innovation, raise advertising fees, and make it harder for thousands of small business to grow.” Taylor wrote that Google’s acquisitions of AdMeld and DoubleClick were each approved by regulators over a decade ago and noted that since then, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and others have seen growth in their own advertising businesses — suggesting competition is alive and well. Further, he argued that Google’s products help publishers fund their websites, keeping the internet free to use. The DOJ, he concluded, shouldn’t make it harder for Google to offer those services, especially when it has already spent 15 years building them up. “We will vigorously contest attempts to break tools that are working for publishers, advertisers, and people across America.”

It’s quite something that Google would reference its role in keeping the internet free, considering the massive revenue it extracts from that service. Recall the importance of digital advertising: It’s what funds creativity on the web, and when Google takes a full third of the proceeds from every advertising transaction, that takes a serious bite out of what creators can provide to users. The DOJ claims Google’s own documents show that proper competition in the digital advertising space could drive prices down by as much as 75%, leaving far more cash in the hands of content creators. And in a wild twist, the U.S. government says it has itself been screwed, since its departments and agencies — including the U.S. Army — have spent over $100 million on digital advertising since 2019. Since, the government says, it ought to have been spending a lot less, it’s asking for Google to pay the difference. And to make sure it never happens again, it wants Google to divest at least its web publisher-side platform for selling ads, as well as its auction service.

That would be huge. Those are two of the three pieces of Google’s digital advertising empire, and critical pieces of the web’s infrastructure. Google’s web publisher-side platform, DoubleClick for Publishers, has over 90% market share, while the auction, Google AdExchange, has over 50%. Divorcing these services from Google — and the market protection it provides — could allow for a level of competition unheard of in 15 years, pumping new life into the web. If, that is, the DOJ wins its case. But even then, Google can’t sleep easy. Across the Atlantic, Europe is coming for it too.

When U.S. diplomats complained about Europe’s tech regulation in 2022, they were talking about the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), a suite of regulations that aims to take a far more active role in controlling how tech giants conduct their affairs. Enacted in October of that year, it designated six companies — Amazon, Apple, ByteDance (owner of TikTok), Meta, Microsoft and Alphabet — as “gatekeepers” for certain key digital services. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was designated for Google’s maps, shopping, ads and app store services, as well as Search, Chrome and Android — essentially, all of its major business lines.

Being designated comes with responsibilities: Gatekeepers have to provide certain customers with better access to their data and let businesses sign deals with customers off the platform. Platforms also can’t favor their own products over others, prevent customers uninstalling preloaded apps or track users outside of the platform for advertising purposes. The whole idea is to make the digital market more fair, making it harder for existing monopolies to abuse their power and giving everyone else a leg up.

These rules have a big advantage over traditional antitrust lawsuits: They don’t need to wait until someone did something wrong, explains Oles Andriychuk, a professor of competition law at Newcastle Law School who runs the YouTube channel Digital Markets Research Hub.

He says antitrust laws suffer from two big drawbacks. “You can only close a case after many years of continuous litigation, and the logic of it is responsive: Until someone explicitly infringes the rules, you have to sit and wait.” We can see this happening with the U.S. approach: Google is only now on trial for actions it took over a decade ago, and with the potential for appeals, there might not be a proper decision for months, if not years. “Here, we have the opportunity to tailor a new regime, which we hope will trigger more intense competition at different levels.”

(Google’s objections to the DMA have been far less aggressive than its responses to the DOJ suits, with blog posts expressing only “concerns” that the rules could “reduce the choices available” to EU customers, while otherwise simply listing their compliance actions.)

Andriychuk is careful to point out that while the new laws are advertised as being good for everyday end users, it’s really about leveling the playing field between gatekeepers and other, less enormous businesses. And surprisingly, it is being driven by a familiar character: the news.

“There are a handful of companies that really know what they are doing, and know which specific provisions will recalibrate their relationship with gatekeepers,” says Andriychuk. Take news publishers. “This is an industry which in the past were gatekeepers themselves. They’re losing momentum, but their muscles are still quite strong. They know how to handle their messages in the right way.” Indeed, News Media Europe, an advocacy group representing over 2,700 publishers on the continent, has pushed for the DMA to get tough on big tech since it was introduced in 2020. And while the DMA’s actual rules may be structured around businesses, Andriychuk insists the end goal is to protect consumers. “Consumers are better off when the markets are fair.”

It’s a point worth considering. Take the sheer amount of effort it takes to switch between tech services, like ditching X (formerly Twitter) for a competitor like Mastodon or BlueSky. Where once you had a lively network of followers, you have to start from scratch on the new platform, and who knows if they’ll follow you back again. There’s a term for that: The “switching cost” between X and Mastodon is high. In such cases, users stick to platforms that they would otherwise prefer not to use. That benefits platform owners, since it means they can squeeze their users (say, by selling their information or exposing them to annoying ads) before they finally jump ship. Platforms have an incentive to keep switching costs high, while users have a competing incentive to keep them low.

For the past 10 years, users have been consistently losing that battle. As activist and technologist Cory Doctorow explains in his book “The Internet Con,” tech giants have successfully gamed the legal system to clamp down on products that would make it easier to switch from their platforms. This feels almost natural — of course you can’t make a Facebook clone and expect not to get sued. Yet as Doctorow argues, the promise of digital technology was supposed to be the opposite. Every computer speaks the same language, so in theory, any digital product can interoperate with any other. There’s no technical reason why you can’t receive Facebook messages in WhatsApp, Gmail or the screen of your smart fridge, but some well-paid lawyers might have something to say about it.

Indeed, plenty of apps have managed to link up competing chat companies over the years. If there don’t seem to be many around, it’s not because they didn’t work. Rather, they died in the courtroom, sued to oblivion by tech companies who have made interoperating with their platforms illegal in most cases, keeping the cost of migrating from their platforms high at their users’ expense. This is another way to read Google’s journey toward its advertising monopoly: every trick it pulled was designed to make it harder for advertisers and publishers to switch from its service to a better competitor. Google can extract such massive rents on the whole system precisely because it eliminated the alternatives and kept switching costs high.

This is where the EU comes in. The DMA is forcing tech giants to allow precisely this kind of interoperability, taking direct aim at the most predatory aspect of their business models. Under one of its obligations, gatekeepers must allow third parties to interoperate with their services. If they don’t, any breach of the law can come with a fine of up to 10% of the offender’s worldwide annual turnover — for Google, $30 billion — and double for repeated offenses.

Of course, there are always ways around such regulations. The EU’s previous attempt at reining in tech giants, the Digital Services Act, stumbled by allowing cases to be heard in Ireland, where Google, Facebook and Apple located themselves for tax reasons. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Irish courts went easy on them. Not this time: DMA hearings will be held in more muscular EU courts, closing that loophole. But even so, companies are fast, tech is complicated and regulators are notoriously slow. There are countless ways each platform could claim to be following the DMA while violating it in spirit, leading the EU to a lumbering game of digital whack-a-mole.

Yet, suggests Doctorow, the “mandated interoperability” demanded by the EU may only be half of the picture. In early 2023, 16-year-old American high school student James Gill figured out how to reverse-engineer Apple’s iMessage messaging service. He was swiftly hired by California software company Beeper, which in December 2023 released Beeper Mini, an Android app that let any device send texts through iMessage — a system that was, up until that point, exclusive to Apple devices and a key incentive for shoppers to buy iPhones. This was what Doctorow calls “adversarial interoperability”: using the common language spoken by all digital technologies to break down artificial barriers between them and against the will of their designers.

What Apple did next was classic tech giant fiat. IMessage was supposed to be an exclusive club for Apple users. With more features than the older SMS system used by Android, it employed a subtle class system, displaying messages received from Android devices as green against the blue of iMessages, indicating the have-nots in the group chat. Beeper Mini, however, was able to program SMS-sent messages to show up as blue and thus came crashing through Apple’s walled garden. It was wildly popular, receiving 100,000 downloads in its first 48 hours. Android users wanted in; Apple wanted Beeper out. In the weeks that followed, Apple repeatedly patched its software to kick Beeper out, only for Beeper to respond with another trick up its sleeve five separate times. Eventually, Apple went nuclear, threatening to kick anyone who used Beeper Mini off iMessage, across all devices.

While Beeper lost in the end, its tenacity shows something important about adversarial interoperability: It’s fast. Beeper was able to circumvent Apple’s controls multiple times in the space of a week, a level of dynamism no regulator could ever dream of. On the other hand, it didn’t work for long. Once Beeper ran out of ideas, it had nothing else to go on. A regulator, meanwhile, has the long hand of the law. Put the two together, says Doctorow, and you get a “two-part epoxy.”

“A mandate is very strong but very brittle,” Doctorow says. “Adversarial interoperability isn’t all that strong, but it is really malleable. It can fill the cracks.”

When both strategies are working together, says Doctorow, tech giants become wary of cheating regulators. Beeper Mini is a great example of how eager platform users can be to escape restrictions — just look how many users Beeper Mini gained overnight. This is the kind of cross-platform communication that the DMA’s interoperability rules are designed to foster. Yet regulators, slow by nature, also often lack technical knowledge, which makes them liable to be fooled by malicious compliance. A tech platform can claim to be abiding by the rules while patching workarounds to keep its users locked in. Sure, the regulator might eventually respond with fines, but those could be an acceptable price to pay for protecting a monopoly. Yet if any teenager with a laptop can counter with their own workaround to the workaround within a week, users will suddenly be free to move again. In that case, the platform both loses market share and has to suffer the regulator’s wrath. Suddenly, cheating doesn’t seem so worth it, and even the world’s biggest companies could be forced to play by the rules.

Doctorow is confident that the DMA could help spark this dynamic. For one thing, it should allow for at least a limited amount of interoperability right out of the gate, which could encourage policymakers and investors to support upstart companies willing to challenge the big firms. The EU could also leverage the threat of enormous fines to force tech firms into settlement deals, which could mandate legal scrutiny over lawsuits they bring against competitors, limiting their ability to lawyer away competition. For a company like Google that has relied on creating walled gardens around its advertising and search markets, these rules could be very bad news — and therefore a boon for everyone else on the internet.

Put together, the U.S. and the EU’s individual efforts could attack the power of big tech from two different sides. The U.S.’s attempts to sue — and even break up — Google present a direct, if blunt, attempt to materially shake up one of the biggest tech companies in the world. It is, however, a post hoc measure and doesn’t necessarily prevent future bad behavior. The EU, meanwhile, is taking a more active role in shaping how Google and its ilk operate. While their regulations are also reactive — no fines until you break the law — the two-part epoxy they encourage could make companies more proactive in following the rules. “It sets up a fairly plausible kind of trans-Atlantic collaboration between the U.S. and the EU,” Doctorow says. “If we get both of those, that’s terrific.”

If that’s true, we’ll have another major country to thank: the U.K. While the British government has been locked in legislative paralysis ever since Brexit, its bureaucrats have been busy. Prior to leaving the EU, Parliament created a new antitrust subagency called the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which was staffed with 70 full-time engineers blessed with both the expertise needed to study how big tech monopolies work and the investigative authority to do so. They used both to great effect, pounding out deeply detailed reports.

“These are 400-page long bangers,” Doctorow says. “They really go deep on how these firms are conducted.” Unfortunately, the legislative chaos that followed Brexit held up the law that would grant the regulators enforcement powers, leaving them toothless. Thankfully, Europe was reading. “The EU has all the enforcement authority it needs but doesn’t have any engineers,” Doctorow says. “The DMU set them up, and the EU is knocking them down.” It was a perfect fit, and the result was the DMA.

Some are confident that the DMU’s companion law could be on its way. The U.K. recently managed to pass another digitally focused bill, the Online Safety Act, which aims to protect underage internet users from harmful or illegal content. It’s a sign that the country may be regaining its legislative footing and with a clear eye toward tech regulation as it does so.

“Maybe a decade ago, tech companies were the darlings of the digital marketing world. Everyone wanted to attract investment into their country,” says Owen Meredith, who leads the U.K.’s News Media Organization, a group representing the country’s media industry. “That’s flipped as people have understood the dangers that have come … there’s clearly a desire to rein in the worst excesses of tech.”

If that bears out, Google will have not one but two agile opponents to work with, even as the U.S. court system lumbers along. “The crucial difference is that in the EU and the U.K., competition agencies don’t have to go to court,” says Andriychuk. “They make decisions on their own.” If he’s right, we can expect regulators across the Atlantic to come for Google long before the legal system catches up stateside.

The U.S. could therefore be in its tricky situation for a while longer. While some members of the Biden administration have met with EU lawmakers about the DMA, as seen earlier, others have actively worked against it. U.S. federalism is designed to allow these kinds of disagreements, with different bodies of government checking and balancing one another. Yet the U.S. statements about the DMA may show the limits of trans-Atlantic cooperation. After all, most of the world’s tech giants are based in the U.S., where they wield political power, and can be regarded by lawmakers as domestic interests worth defending abroad. For their part, the DMA’s advocates are hardly convinced by this nativist posturing. “We are part and parcel of the liberal democratic vision. We care about competition,” says Andriychuk. “If you look at the main beneficiaries [of the DMA], the second-tier companies, most of them are American as well.” Still, there’s nothing quite like Google, Meta or Microsoft, and their influence can be expected to shape American policy regardless, even if they can’t get the whole administration on board.

The fragmented state of U.S. politics may therefore work in Google’s favor: While legislators and the DOJ work to rein them in, dysfunction at both levels could delay those efforts. Given these complications, it’s somewhat miraculous that any semblance of a common front against Google can be found within the U.S., let alone internationally. And yet the pieces are coming together. Only time will tell if any of these efforts succeed, but if they do, everything on your screen could be about to change.

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