Florida AG Moody signs on to Google lawsuit

In Florida’s latest effort to punish technology companies, Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday signed on to a Texas lawsuit accusing Google of violating federal antitrust laws to boost its online advertising business.

The Texas lawsuit, filed in December, is one of a number of legal challenges against tech behemoths Google and Facebook. Moody also joined dozens of other states in December in a lawsuit against Facebook that accuses the social-media giant of exploiting its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaging in anti-competitive practices.

The Texas lawsuit alleges that Google "sought to kill competition" through "an array of exclusionary tactics, including an unlawful agreement with Facebook, its largest potential competitive threat" to manipulate digital advertising sales.

"Google’s internal documents belie the public image of brainy Google engineers having fun at their sunny Mountain View campus while trying to make the world a better place. Rather, to cement its dominance across online display markets, Google has repeatedly and brazenly violated antitrust and consumer protection laws," an amended 150-page complaint filed Monday reads.

The lawsuit focuses on "ad exchanges," which are centralized electronic trading venues where display ads are bought and sold. Consumer goods companies, online retailers and small businesses rely on Google "as their respective middleman" for purchasing display ads from exchanges to market products to consumers, the lawsuit said.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., disputes the allegations.

"Attorney General Paxton’s ad tech claims are meritless, yet he’s gone ahead in spite of all the facts," the California-based company said in a prepared statement, referring to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. "Our advertising technologies help websites and apps fund their content, enable small businesses to grow, and protect users from exploitative privacy practices and bad ad experiences. We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court."

Amid the legal challenges, Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Republican legislative leaders are targeting Google, Facebook and other tech giants after Twitter permanently removed former President Donald Trump from its site and social media platforms began slapping warnings on posts by other politicians.

A proposal moving in the Florida House (HB 7013) would, in part, prevent social-media sites from blocking political candidates in Florida from platforms. It also would require the companies to publish standards about issues such as blocking users and apply the standards consistently.

Opponents say the bill would violate the companies’ constitutional rights and are raising concerns about whether the state has the authority to regulate such issues.