Google just got accused via unredacted documents from a state-led antitrust lawsuit alleging the tech giant of colluding with fellow tech company Facebook in an attempt to manipulate online advertising sales. CEO of both firms was said to be aware of the deal and then signed off on it.
There was an original, redacted lawsuit that was filed back in Dec. 2021 where Google was accused of “anti-competitive conduct” and also of teaming up with Facebook.
Then the unredacted version further detailed the involvement of both Sundar Pichai from Alphabet and Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook in approving the deal. Facebook has however rebranded to Meta.
The lawsuit further stated that the social media giant’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg was “explicit that ‘this is a big deal strategically’” back in the year 2018 via an email thread – about the deal that included the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Even though the names of the Facebook executives are still redacted in the suit, their titles are visible.
After both tech giants figured out the terms of the agreement, “the team sent an email addressed directly to CEO”, the lawsuit states.
“We’re nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward,” the email read, according to the complaint. Zuckerberg was alleged to be planning on meeting with Sandberg and other executives before making a decision, the complaint states.
In a statement, Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels said the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit.”
However, back in the year 2018, the complaints say that the two companies had signed the agreement. Sandberg was formerly the head of Google’s ad business along with Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet both signed off on the deal, according to the complaint.
A spokesperson from Meta Chris Sgro made it known on Friday that the company’s ad bidding agreement with Google and similar agreements it has with other bidding platforms “have helped to 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 said.
Internally, Google used the code phrase “Jedi Blue” to refer to the 2018 agreement, according to the lawsuit. Google kept this code phrase secret.
But Google’s Schottenfel believes that the lawsuit’s allegation where Pichai had signed a deal with rival Facebook just “isn’t accurate.”
“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” he said, adding that the agreement “was never a secret.”
The lawsuit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.