Every day, 8.5 billion searches are performed on Google. To put that number in context, around 8 billion people are alive today. With more searches than people alive, to “Google” is now a widely used verb in the English language. Few private companies can claim to have had such a cultural impact. The primary reason for Google’s popularity is that it puts information at people’s fingertips. Previously, it would have taken hours or days to find just a fraction of what is available on Google after one simple search.
Google has truly democratized information and made knowledge more accessible.
Google’s powerful search engine is not limited to simply finding information, but the site’s advertising suite allows businesses of all sizes to reach millions of consumers across the globe, allowing them to grow at a rate that would have otherwise been unattainable.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of Google among users, the Department of Justice and Attorneys General from eight states launched a civil antitrust lawsuit against the Silicon Valley giant, seeking a court-ordered separation between the company’s advertising suite and other lines of business. When announcing the widely-anticipated lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland argued that “Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.”
For consumers and businesses alike, including those in Florida, the move to break up Google could significantly disrupt how Floridians search the internet and how businesses in the Sunshine State reach consumers.
Hostility toward large technology companies is nothing new in modern American politics. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried and failed to unwind a merger between Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and Within, an XR developer of fitness applications. Additionally, the FTC is currently suing e-commerce giant Amazon and also failed to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision.
In its complaint, the DoJ argues that Google “monopolizes key digital advertising technologies, collectively referred to as the “ad tech stack,” that website publishers depend on to sell ads and that advertisers rely on to buy ads and reach potential customers.” Specifically, the DoJ argues that Google sought to force companies to adopt their tools, distorted advertising auction competition, and manipulated advertising auctions to insulate the company from competition by denying rivals’ scale.
With the fight occurring in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal courthouse, the inevitable question becomes why should Floridians care? After all, the case concerns a Silicon Valley behemoth at a time when the American public is increasingly skeptical of technology companies.
The answer is that Floridians should care because if the DoJ is successful, it could disrupt a critical component of the state’s economy and make it harder for small businesses to reach a global customer base.
According to Google’s Impact report, the company has generated over $36 billion in economic activity and supported over 1.3 million businesses in Florida alone. This substantial economic activity occurs because Google’s advertising tools allow Florida’s businesses to reach customers worldwide, many of whom would be otherwise unreachable. Such a substantial reach allows businesses to generate more revenue, hire more employees, and scale their businesses. In the long run, local economies benefit and Florida’s economy is strengthened.
Forcibly separating Google’s advertising businesses from its other lines of business would ultimately disrupt this ecosystem. Without access to Google adverts, businesses will be forced to deliver adverts over multiple different providers as opposed to just using one advertising platform that works across the internet. Losing this one-stop shop for advertising would make it harder for businesses to reach consumers across the country, cutting their ability to hire and scale their operations. Ultimately, this will leave local economies poorer and weaken Florida’s thriving business environment.
Floridians will also suffer. With fewer relevant adverts reaching them, they will likely find it harder to buy the goods and services they demand. Rather than receiving adverts for goods and services consumers likely want, internet advertising will become like highway billboards, advertising generic products of the largest companies to disinterested passers by.
While the case outcome is likely weeks or months away, there is an immediate threat that a judgment against Google could reverberate in Florida, a state that prides itself on a friendly business environment. A judgment against Google risks making it harder for businesses, particularly small businesses, to reach the consumers who ultimately hold the keys to success.
Floridians should be watching closely.