Google’s motion to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed by Rumble has been denied by a federal district court in California. The lawsuit will now proceed to discovery, creating a rare opportunity to learn how Google operates and how it works to stifle emerging platforms while favoring its own.
We obtained a copy of the decision for you here.
Rumble’s lawsuit alleges that Google uses its dominance in search to direct users to YouTube instead of its competitors, highlighting the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The law makes it illegal to “monopolize, or attempt to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among several States, or with foreign nations.”
Rumble is one of YouTube’s most significant competitors. Founded in 2013, it has grown rapidly over the past few years because it upholds free speech, while YouTube has been heavily censoring content, positioning itself as the arbiter of truth while banning, deleting, and demonetizing videos that go against certain narratives.
For example, unlike Big Tech platforms, Rumble does not censor claims of election fraud or criticism of Covid measures.
YouTube has also become increasingly unfriendly to independent creators as it seeks more corporate partnerships and pushes to boost more mainstream sources that it deems to be “authoritative.”
By filing the lawsuit, Rumble hoped that there will be free and fair competition so that people can find videos uploaded on YouTube’s competitors. The suit alleges that Google uses its dominance in search and manipulates its algorithms to prevent users from finding videos on YouTube’s competitors.
The WSJ once said its reporters tested how the system works to discover that, in an overwhelming majority of cases, highly similar versions of videos ranked better if they appeared on YouTube.
The lawsuit states that Google’s “chokehold on search is impenetrable, and that chokehold allows it to continue unfairly and unlawfully to self-preference YouTube over its rivals, including Rumble, and to monopolize the online video platform market.”
The lawsuit also notes that YouTube is the default app for online videos on smartphones using Google’s Android. Manufacturers are required to pre-install YouTube and other Google services.
The court noted that Rumble alleges that Google “requires Android device manufacturers that want to preinstall certain of Google’s proprietary apps to sign an anti-forking agreement.”
“Plaintiff [Rumble] alleges that once an Android device manufacturer signs an anti-forking agreement, Google will only provide access to its vital proprietary apps and application program interfaces if the manufacturer agrees: ‘(1) to take (that is, pre-install) a bundle of other Google apps (such as its YouTube app); (2) to make certain apps undeletable (including its YouTube app); and (3) to give Google the most valuable and important location on the device’s default home screen (including for its YouTube app).
“As another example, plaintiff [Rumble] asserts that ‘Google provides a share of its search advertising revenue to Android device manufacturers, mobile phone carriers, competing browsers, and Apple; in exchange, Google becomes the preset default general search engine for the most important search access points on a computer or mobile device.
“‘And, by becoming the default general search engine, Google is able to continue its manipulation of video search results using its search engine to self-preference its YouTube platform, making sure that links to videos on the YouTube platform are listed above the fold on the search results page.’ [Also], Google’s revenue sharing agreements allow it to maintain a monopoly in the general search market and online video platform market).”
“In reviewing the plausibility of a complaint, courts ‘accept factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,’” the court said.
“Without real dispute, [Rumble] has adequately alleged a Section 2 [of the Sherman Act] claim. First, it alleges that [Google] obtained and maintains monopoly power in the online video platform market, asserting that YouTube controls 73% of global online video activity,” it added.
“According to Plaintiff, ‘Rumble and consumers (e.g. content creators) are disadvantaged, and competition is harmed, in the defined market because Google provides self-preferencing search advantages to its wholly-owned YouTube platform as a part of its scheme to maintain its monopoly power, and to reap a monopolist’s financial rewards.’”
The court shot down Google’s motion to get the lawsuit dismissed, saying, “[Google’s] motion is based on the somewhat counterintuitive premise that Plaintiff has pled too much” and that, “ultimately, in the absence of controlling authority supporting Defendant’s proposed approach, the Court declines to reach the viability of each of the purported subtheories, given that Plaintiff undisputedly has adequately pled a Section 2 [Of the Sherman Act] claim based on self-preferencing. Defendant’s motion to dismiss is accordingly DENIED.”
Because Google’s motion to dismiss was denied, the lawsuit will proceed to the discovery stage, where Rumble will get a wide range of documents from Google to support its claims.