Google and Facebook are presently at the center of an antitrust lawsuit but agreed in advance to help each other out if any such suit ever happened. At least, that's if a recent report from the Wall Street Journal is to be believed.
According to the report, a set of documents from the suit has now been reviewed with redactions removed. The documents pertain to an agreement signed by the two companies back in 2018, outlining a deal on advertising. The deal stifles competition and breaches antitrust laws, according to the lawsuit, led by Texas.
When initially submitted, the documents were redacted. Google stood accused of giving Facebook preferential treatment in advertising. And that purportedly includes special access to Google's data. Facebook allegedly agreed to provide less support to competing platforms. That's alongside some other allegations that were recently reported. Now it appears that the documents also outline an agreement to "cooperate and assist each other in responding to any Antitrust Action."
Additionally, the documents reportedly show an agreement to "promptly and fully inform the Other Party of any Governmental Communication Related to the Agreement."
Google and Facebook have reportedly responded to the new lawsuit details
True to the agreement, both Google and Facebook have come forward to rebut the allegations in the lawsuit. Google also came forward stating that the agreement over antitrust actions is extremely common.
Moreover, according to Google, the states’ claims are false. "We don’t manipulate the auction,” and the deal was not a secret, according to one company spokesperson. The spokesperson also says that Facebook participates in other ad auctions. And that there's nothing exclusive about that company's involvement. The data received by Facebook is additionally made available to other buyers, according to Google. So there wasn't any special treatment there either.
Facebook similarly labels the allegations as 'baseless'. According to the social media giant, its agreements for bidding on advertising are designed to promote choice and to generate benefits for advertisers, publishers and small businesses.
Where does the lawsuit go from here?
Now, this is one case that will undoubtedly take some time to make its way through the courts. Particularly in light of other new details contained in the reports. Namely, that Google entered into its advertising deal while still considering Facebook as its "“largest potential competitive threat.” Explicitly with Google workers voicing concerns about Facebook — which typically acts as a middleman on ads — in that context as far back as 2016.
The fact that Google potentially knew this would cause antitrust problems only serves to complicate matters. And an agreement to cooperate on defense in case of a lawsuit does as well. So any conclusion to this case is still likely a long way out.