Google defends ‘Jedi Blue’ deal with Meta during antitrust hearing

Google’s lawyer told a federal judge on Wednesday that the “Jedi Blue” deal between the search engine giant and Meta is not illegal or anti-competitive since it doesn’t prevent Facebook from using other ad exchanges, as reported by Bloomberg.

The companies signed the agreement back in September 2018, which allegedly provided Meta unfair advantages in Google’s ad auctions in exchange for Meta’s promise to cancel its plans to offer its own ad system. 

Ten US states led by Texas sued Google in September 2020, accusing the company of being anti-competitive to protect its ad business. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the European Union and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority also launched antitrust investigations into the agreement. 

During a hearing which took place yesterday in Manhattan federal court, Google’s attorney Eric Mahr said: “The written agreement itself has nothing unlawful in it”. He also claimed that the agreement increased competition since it enabled Facebook to place bids on ads on Google’s ad exchange for websites and mobile apps that are part of its Audience Network.

However, Texas’ representative attorney Ashley Keller argued that Google signed the agreement to provide Meta various benefits on its exchange. In exchange, he added, Facebook decided not to continue its plans that would have challenged Google’s ad business. 

Google’s attorney asked Judge P. Kevin Castel to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit. He said that “Google does not have to design any of its products to take into account the interests of rivals,” and that the states “want to turn Google into an ad tech utility.”

Keller, however, claimed that Google has constantly taken measures in order to make it more difficult for its competitors to challenge its business. When those measures fail, the company then would buy off its rivals, he added, citing the Jedi Blue agreement. 

There are privileges that Google gives to its own buying tools,” he said. “It’s just naked anticompetitive behavior to make sure others can’t disrupt the monopoly.”

Judge Castel said that the comments were ‘helpful’, but he didn’t mention how and when he may decide. 

Written by Jordan Bevan


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