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Unedited antitrust allegations show that Google’s advertising business is more sneaky than you might think

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]Texas and 15 other states, as well as Puerto Rico, have filed proceedings against Google for violating antitrust laws in the online advertising market. Late last week, the Southern District of New York opened a complaint. This is the third amended complaint at this point. I embedded the document at the end of the post.

As I’ll explain, this complaint depicts a horrifying picture of how Google has monopolized all of the key information chokepoints in the online advertising business between publishers and advertisers. As one employee said, it’s as if Google owns a bank and the New York Stock Exchange.

Google is shamelessly engaged in fraud. In fact, the abuse is so terrible that you may wonder why the Attorney General is not pursuing those accusations separately. Take a look at the crib from the Wall Street Journal summary on one of Google’s scams.

The newly unedited details provide more information about Google’s set of programs, Project Bernanke, Reserve Price Optimization, and Dynamic Revenue Share. The Bernanke program has been previously reported, but a newly unedited complaint reveals that there were three versions between 2010 and 2019.

In the first version, Google misunderstood publishers and advertisers as participating in a second-price auction where the winner pays the second-highest bid when using the ad exchange AdX. However, Google’s Bernanke program could steal revenue from publishers because AdX could knock out the second highest bid and win the third highest bid. At the same time, Google will charge advertisers the second highest bid price and put the difference in their pockets, the complaint said.

Google pools advertiser overpayments and uses that money to operate auctions on the system, sometimes increasing bids from advertisers who bid through ad buying tools, and winning auctions that would otherwise not be available. The complaint said it guaranteed that.

Another description of Project Bernanki:

An additional $ 9 between two bids, Google used to secretly raise advertiser bids using tools to ensure they always win advertisers using non-Google tools I put it in the pool. pic.twitter.com/gE5O8Yvvbv

Leah AntiTrustButVer1fy Nylen (@leah_nylen) January 14, 2022

As a reminder, the benefits of this proceeding cannot be determined as antitrust enforcement has become so weak and case law has shifted to favor the Big Boy. One of the usual ways to successfully muddy water in antitrust proceedings is to discuss the definition of the relevant market. The market is “appropriate”. The Platform Law set the context at the time of the release of the previous version of this complaint, which was not edited in late October.

The first complaints filed in December 2020 were a number of competition authorities, including the UK competition market authorities, France’s Autorit de la concurrence, and the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (more on this later). It reflects the results of the survey. Google has used market power throughout the ad tech supply chain to tackle a variety of competitive tactics that are distorting competition. Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is reportedly preparing to file its own proceedings against Google, and the European Commission is also investigating Google’s advertising technology practices.

By the way, since the acquisition of DoubleClick, Google has become the largest advertising technology vendor at each step in the value chain, with a market share of 90-100% and the major publishers themselves (property owned and operated like YouTube). ). Most of this was more or less known, but the Texas complaint was a headline to claim that Google considered it a threat to its existence when faced with the prospect of Facebook supporting a disruptive technology called header bidding. I made. According to the so-called Jedi Blue Agreement, Facebook will reduce header bidding initiatives in exchange for special privileges when bidding on Google’s auctions.

Initially, a significant portion of the complaint was edited, but thanks to a US District Court order, the full proceedings are now accessible. Most of the previously edited passages are (quite juicy) quotations from internal Google and Facebook documents, as well as information about Google’s pricing. As such, unedited complaints do not include any new claims against Google or the theory of harm advocated by the United States. Nevertheless, the unedited proceedings show that these theories of harm are endorsed by a fairly wide range of abominable internal documents. Internal evidence is important. This is because it makes it much more difficult to raise an argument that is directly inconsistent with its own view, as the subject of the complaint is internally expressed in an unquestioned, temporary form.

To understand the essence of the arguments, just read the section headers in the filing. for example:

The list of cheating goes from A to H. This is A to C only.

AdExchanger describes the stupid revelation in opening complaints in October and January:

In October, a New York judge unsealed the proceedings, revealing quite juicy details such as Google’s AdX take rate (two to four times that of its closest competitor). Google prefers to intentionally slow down the loading time of non-AMP ads. More information about Jedi Blue, a secret program affiliated with Facebook as part of an effort to kill header bids …

The new complaint also includes Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook (fine! Meta) CEO Mark Zuckerberg approving the 2018 Jedi Blue Agreement, where Facebook bids its own header instead of providing Facebook information, speed, and more. Claims to agree not to create the product. Advantages at auction.

The increase in header bids around 2015 was a major threat to Google as rival exchanges were able to compete with Google on a more equal footing.

A previously unedited proceeding wrote that header bidding could reduce Google’s profit margin from 20% to about 5%, thereby threatening Google’s ability to justify its charges. I’m referencing an email sent by an unnamed Google executive.

Google then allegedly planned to crush header bids by establishing partnerships and developing software to protect its position. This includes open bidding, which allows publishers to route inventory to multiple exchanges at the same time.

The purpose of the entire Jedi program, so named because Google was playing Jedi mind tricks in the industry, was to get publishers to stop using header bidding themselves.

Platform law, along with the above ad exchange issues (new complaints showed more dirt) and privacy hypocrisy, considered Google’s actions with header bidding as one of the biggest areas of vulnerability. About header bidding:

In fact, if the various internal documents cited in the unedited proceedings have a common theme, this is a contradiction between Google’s public position on various issues and the views of its employees and executives. , Or a complete contradiction.

While publicly stating that header bidding is not a threat to the business, Google has considered header bidding to be an existential threat, according to internal documents. As a background, header bidding is an advertising technology for publishers and rivals in response to Google’s favor for unique ad exchanges that have actually spent real money on publishers, as Google employees admit internally. Invented by the vendor. As header bidding became more prominent, Google employees discussed options to mitigate the growth of the header bidding infrastructure in October 2016.When one Google employee proposed a nuclear option to reduce Google’s interchange fees to zero, another employee replied that the problem with price competition was that it simply didn’t kill the HB. [header bidding].. In response, Google has developed its own header bidding-like solution, now called Open Bidding (codenamed Jedi). Its success was measured not by increasing financial goals or outcomes, but by how much it prevented publishers from using header bidding. However, one senior Google employee commented that the Jedi creates suboptimal yields for publishers and creates a serious risk of negative media coverage when exposed to the public.

Meanwhile, Google was wary of the risks of large entrants in favor of header bidding … In response to Facebook’s signal to support header bidding, Google executives have impressed the need to combat header bidding and the threat of existence posed by fans on the company’s deck. This is my personal top priority.If nothing else, this need[s] To [be] All hands[s] With a deck approach.

Google finally invited Facebook to the negotiating table. According to the proceedings, Google promised a range of benefits when bidding on Open Bidding, which Google will continue to maintain control and charge its rivals in return for Facebook to reduce its header bidding initiative. These special terms included the benefits of speed and assistance in identifying users (which is important for online advertising auctions). Google has written an internal document to commemorate FAN’s special trading conditions, but it’s worth consolidating our value. (On the other hand, Google is its web support manager, stating that all auction participants compete equally). Questions about Google and Facebook’s understanding of the Jedi Blue deal (signed by Google’s top executive Philip Schindler and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg) are dispelled by the internal evidence cited in the complaint.In internal communication, Facebook executives say they [Google] I want to abolish header bidding in this transaction.

To be honest, I’m not surprised. Online advertising is a sewage pool that makes the gig economy platform look great. If Uber gets caught up in fraud by showing the driver a total fare that is lower than the passenger actually paid, it becomes a “tweet” and narrowly corrects bad habits. In contrast, as a small publisher, I don’t have the right to audit, so there’s no way to see the instructions from the advertising service. I don’t know how skimming they are, in addition to what I have agreed to pay them.

So I want to clean up this area, but I’m not holding my breath.

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Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/01/unredacted-antitrust-complaint-shows-googles-ad-business-even-scummier-than-many-imagined.html

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