New Delhi: A lawsuit has been filed against Google and Facebook heads for an attempt to collude to gain an advantage in the ad market, reported media platforms. A serious anti-trust complaint in the US has reportedly revealed that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai were allegedly involved in an ad collusion plot. However, both tech giants have denied the charges.Also Read - Google to Warn Users Against Phishing Attacks on Chat
Attorneys for Texas and other states alleged in newly unsealed court filings that Zuckerberg and Pichai “personally approved a secret deal that gave the social network a leg up in the search giant’s online advertising auctions”, reported Politico. Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the group of state attorneys general released a new antitrust complaint against Google, giving more details into the company’s alleged collusion with Facebook in programmatic ad markets. Also Read - Realme 9 Pro To iQoo Z3: Top 5 Camera Smartphones That You Can Buy Under Rs.20,000 - Watch Full List
The states originally filed the suit against Google in December 2020, and updated that with a heavily-redacted version in November last year. The initial complaint alleged collusion between the two tech giants, particularly in a project codenamed “Jedi Blue”. The “Jedi Blue” deal was reviewed at the highest levels of both companies, with personal involvement from Pichai, Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Zuckerberg. In one email to Zuckerberg, Sandberg allegedly told the CEO “(t)his is a big deal strategically”. Also Read - Apple, Samsung Face Fresh Fines For Not Shipping Power Adapters With Smartphones: Report
What’s the big deal?
The deal was allegedly a way for Google to counter header bidding. Publishers look for the header bidding position to make more money from the ads on their website. Facebook, a major player in the ad sector, provided this feature to its users. This deal wanted to stop Facebook from providing this position to its publishers and in return it would get “information, speed, and other advantages” from Google.
CEOs accused of signing the deal
According to the report that came out on Friday, the complaint said the team that negotiated the deal sent Zuckerberg an email telling him: “We’re nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward.” “The 2018 deal gave Facebook possibly unlawful advantages when the social network used Google’s advertising exchange, according to allegations by Texas, 14 other states and Puerto Rico in the latest version of their federal antitrust suit against Google,” said the report.
Sandberg and a Google senior vice president signed the September 2018 agreement, the lawsuit claimed, adding that “Google CEO Sundar Pichai also personally signed off on the terms of the deal”.
Tech giants deny charges
In a statement to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said: “AG Paxton’s assertion isn’t accurate. We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different.”
Meta also denied that the arrangement was illegal. “Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped to increase competition for ad placements,” Meta spokesperson Christopher Sgro said in a statement.
The fresh case comes amid antitrust actions against Google, including parallel antitrust cases focusing on search manipulation and its management of the Google Play Store.
(With inputs from IANS)