This year has seen a sharp increase in scrutiny around big tech. Both Facebook and Google have had lawsuits filed against them in the previous months for various reasons, but it looks like they had already been expecting something like this, and were in fact, preparing for it.
Facebook and Alphabet’s Google had agreed to team up to “cooperate and assist one another” if they ever face an investigation into their pact to work together in online advertising, according to an unredacted version of the lawsuit filed by Texas and nine other states against Google on Wednesday.
The suit alleged that the two giants had agreed in a publicized deal in 2018 to start giving Facebook’s advertiser clients the option to place ads within Google’s network of publishing partners. Google and Facebook were also reportedly aware that the agreement could trigger antitrust investigations and discussed how to deal with them, in a passage that is followed by major redactions.
However, WSJ has been able to review some of these documents, and found that the two companies were trying to cover their bases in case they were to ever face an investigation, by teaming up.
According to an internal communication from November 2017, Google discussed the possibility of a potential partnership with Facebook to collaborate and maintain the status quo. Also, before the agreement was executed, Facebook’s negotiating team sent an email to the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlining the advantage of the agreement over a heavily competitive future.
But these details aren’t included in the lawsuit. It only names Mr. Zuckerberg once in relation to the internal communication about the deal.
A Google spokesperson said such agreements over antitrust threats are extremely common. Facebook too argues that “Any allegation that this harms competition or any suggestion of misconduct on the part of Facebook is baseless.”
This is not the only antitrust suit that Google is facing as last Thursday attorneys general from 35 states filed another antitrust lawsuit against it. Led by Colorado and Nebraska, the bipartisan group alleges that the search giant has an ‘illegal monopoly’ over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers. They said that the dominance of Google has won itself 90% market dominance and made it impossible for their smaller rivals.