Online advertising: Facebook and Google accused of conspiracy and manipulation

New warning shot aimed at the online advertising giants, Facebook and Google, incriminated by a new complaint relating to the agreements and manipulations put in place to stifle competition.

Several American states, at the instigation of Texas, have filed a complaint against Facebook (Meta) and Google, directly targeting the leaders of these firms for their involvement in an anti-competitive agreement signed in 2018. Objective of this deal: to impose their domination on the online advertising market.

The complaint in question, filed in New York on January 14, 2022, is a new version of the lawsuits initiated in December 2020 against Google. The Web giant remains the first target, accused of having manipulated, for its own benefit, the auction system for advertising inserts set up on its various platforms. The company would have gone so far as to inflate the prices presented to advertisers to increase its margins. For the Texas prosecutor, it is as if Google were a bank that owned the Stock Exchange, the complaint showing how Google “manipulates the online auction system to the detriment of content publishers to whom the company blatantly lies about the reality of auctions”.

Fearing that the alternative auction system set up at the request of justice would be detrimental to it and lead to a drop in its commissions, Google then convinced Facebook – number two in online advertising – to form an alliance aimed at stifling the competetion. In the documents submitted to justice, the names of Sundar Pichai (Google) or Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) are cited. The agreement in question was reportedly signed in September 2018 by Philipp Schindler, chief business officer of Google, and the director of Facebook, who was in the past director of advertising at… Google.

Unsurprisingly, the companies concerned dispute this version. Responding to questions from AFP, remarks taken up by Le Figaro, Facebook said: “The non-exclusive agreement with Google and similar agreements we have with other auction platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements. […] These professional relationships allow Meta to offer more value to advertisers while compensating publishers fairly: everyone wins.”

Outside China, on a global scale, Amazon, Facebook and Google have shared between 80 and 90% of the digital advertising market according to a report by the firm GroupM, quoted by Marianne.

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