Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Rumble’s antitrust case against Google may proceed, judge says

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A judge in California says video service Rumble may proceed with the early stages of an antitrust case against Google. Rumble sued Google in 2021, claiming that it favored its own YouTube video platform in its search results and Android operating system. Google urged the court to split the lawsuit’s arguments and dismiss substantial portions of the reasoning, as well as scrap portions of the lawsuit related to the Android app’s pre-installation. Judge Haywood Gilliam refused to do this late last week, putting the case on track to proceed – although it can still be dismissed before it goes to trial.

Rumble’s suit overlaps with several ongoing Big Tech controversies. The company is targeting Google’s deals with Android phone manufacturers, which typically agree to pre-install bundles of Google apps and limit non-Google app pre-installs or operating system changes, sometimes in ways that make antitrust watchdogs illegal. have found. It also claims that Google unfairly loads the top results of searches for videos with YouTube links, thus burying Rumble results — similar to complaints filed by “vertical” search engines over the decades.

“Rumble’s success … is far less than it could and should have been as a direct result of Google’s unlawful anticompetitive, foreclosure and monopolistic behavior,” the complaint states.

Rumble is also part of a conservative-friendly web ecosystem that has catered (with varying levels of exclusivity) to right-wing users who claim they have been censored on larger platforms like Google. It filed suit around the same time that the alternative social network Parler was attempting to sue Amazon over antitrust cases, but while that lawsuit made some fairly weak claims about competition, Rumble is responding to widely acknowledged concerns about Google’s ecosystem. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have both pushed for legislation that could limit the kind of “self-preference” described in the complaint.

In his response to Rumble’s lawsuit, Google claims that Rumble content is ranked as high as it deserves. “Rival search engines like Microsoft Bing, Yahoo Search and DuckDuckGo each return results similar to Google’s — they also rank YouTube videos above Rumble’s,” it reads. “Google tries to display search results that are most satisfying to consumers, regardless of whether such results include content found on Google’s YouTube service.”

Judge Gilliam says Google’s arguments were not compelling enough to drop significant portions of Rumble’s case. But whether they survive a later motion for summary judgment or a court order, Gilliam says, “is a matter for a later stage of the case.”

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