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Report: Google & Meta Colluded In 2018 To Control Ad Market

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Freshly unsealed documents from a state antitrust lawsuit against Google has revealed a secret deal between the company and Facebook (now known as Meta). The lawsuit alleges that the two companies joined forces to consolidate the online ad market. Moreover, the CEOs of Meta and Google reportedly signed off on the deal.

The Texas Attorney General initiated the lawsuit last month. But the information is now pouring through as some documents have been unredacted. It alleges Google of “anti-competitive conduct,” while also shedding light on the involvement of senior executives of both companies (via The Associated Press).

This lawsuit is led by Texas AG Ken Paxton. It also has the support of attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

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Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels defended the company’s stance, saying the case is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit.”

According to the excerpts of the lawsuit, the two companies signed the agreement in September 2018. Moreover, the complaint quotes Meta’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in an email thread saying, “this is a big deal strategically.”

The Google spokesperson said this deal “was never a secret”

The titles of the Meta executives are visible on the documents, even if their names aren’t. The lawsuit states that the Facebook team sent “an email addressed directly to CEO” Mark Zuckerberg. “We’re nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward,” a portion of the email read.

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Responding to the allegations, Meta spokesperson Chris Sgro said that such agreements have helped “increase competition for ad placements.”

“These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while fairly compensating publishers, resulting in better outcomes for all,” Sgro added (via Politico). It’s worth pointing out that Meta isn’t a defendant in this lawsuit.

Google reportedly referred to this secret 2018 deal internally as “Jedi Blue,” as per the lawsuit. Schottenfels rejects claims suggesting CEO Sundar Pichai’s involvement with this deal, calling it inaccurate. Moreover, the spokesperson added that this deal “was never a secret.”

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“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” he said.