TechCrunch reports the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Google of deleting evidence in its search engine antitrust investigation. The evidence, internal communications between Google employees, is related to the DOJ’s 2020 antitrust suit against the tech giant. Additionally, Fortnite maker, Epic Games, alleged Google similarly destroyed evidence in their lawsuit against the company. Here’s everything you need to know about the DOJ’s allegations against Google.
The DOJ accused Google of monopolistic practices in search engine advertising.
The Justice Department alleged Google “unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising” through exclusivity agreements and other means. One example includes a long-term agreement to maintain Google as the default search engine on all Apple devices.
The DOJ says Google employees regularly used Google Hangouts’ “off the record” feature, which automatically deletes messages, for sensitive communications. They allege Google violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which mandates they preserve internal communications once they expect litigation. They claim Google impacted the case by “depriving it […] of candid discussions between Google’s executives, including likely trial witnesses.”
The DOJ requests the court hold a hearing in the complaint to determine an appropriate sanction against Google. However, Reuters reports Google swiftly denied the DOJ’s claims.
“Our teams have conscientiously worked for years to respond to inquiries and litigation,” said a Google spokesperson. Additionally, the company “produced over 4 million documents in this case alone, and millions more to regulators around the world.”
The Justice Department’s complaint could significantly affect Epic Games’ suit against Google.
The DOJ’s court filing specifically mentions Epic Games’ lawsuit against Google. In that suit, the court is collecting chats from Google for evidence in the ongoing case. Additionally, CNBC reports the DOJ is reinvigorating its antitrust investigation into Google Maps. The probe will determine if Google illegally forces software developers to use Maps and its search engine products.