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Senators skeptical of Google claim it doesn't have ad market monopoly
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Republican and Democratic senators alike voiced skepticism Tuesday of Google's reassurances that it is not a monopoly within the digital ad market.
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Google on Tuesday answered questions from lawmakers before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights about its dominance as an advertising platform and search engine.
"You're using your dominant position in Search and YouTube in order to give yourselves a dominant position in the ad stack, and not just on the demand side … but also on the supply side because as you drive so much volume onto your demand-side platform, it creates…strong incentives on the supply side," Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said during the hearing.
Google, a $1 trillion company, has created a platform that both advertisers and publishers — websites that publish ads — have become increasingly reliant on due to the tech giant's massive amount of user traffic and consumer data that help with targeted ads.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., echoed Hawley's concerns, saying Google "has an immense conflict of interest" as it collects data from both advertisers and publishers. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also suggested that Google plays a "dominant role in buying and selling ads online" and pressed Donald Harrison, Google's president of Global Partnerships and Corporate, to name equal ad competitors.
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Hawley cited a study by the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority Commission "found that Google's market share in all of those layers of the ad stack is dominant" in the U.K., taking up between 40 and 90% of different ad markets including search ads, video ads and display ads.
The study also found that major ad tech companies like Google might make as much as 42 cents for every dollar spent on ads.
Harrison did not agree with senators' assessments of Google's dominance and mentioned a number of other publishers that provide their own direct advertising, including Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok.
"First of all, these are small percentages," Harrison said in reference to the percentages referenced in the U.K. study, arguing that "anyone who sells large amounts of advertising" has similar incentives.