Facebook and Google agreed to help each other out if they came under antitrust scrutiny, lawsuit alleges

Last week a coalition of state attorneys general filed a heavily redacted antitrust lawsuit against Google over its ads business.
The Wall Street Journal obtained an unredacted draft of the lawsuit, revealing it alleges Google and Facebook agreed to help each other if a deal they’d struck ever faced antitrust scrutiny.
The suit alleges the two tech giants struck an illegal advertising deal which gave Facebook preferential treatment.
Google denied this in a statement to Business Insider.
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Facebook and Google agreed to help each other out if a deal struck between them came under the antitrust microscope, according an unredacted draft lawsuit seen by the Wall Street Journal.The draft lawsuit seen by the Journal is a version of the heavily-redacted antitrust suit that was filed against Google by state attorneys general last week, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.While it was already known the suit alleges Google and Facebook struck a deal, the revelation they agreed to team up against antitrust scrutiny is new. Per the Journal, the companies agreed to “cooperate and assist each other in responding to any Antitrust Action” if their deal ever came under regulatory scrutiny.

The lawsuit alleges Facebook and Google struck an illegal deal over advertising space. Specifically, it alleges that Facebook baited Google into striking a deal to give it preferential treatment by threatening to get into an area of digital advertising called “header bidding,” which Google perceived as a threat to its own ads business.The unredacted draft seen by the Journal contained more details about the lead-up to that deal, including an internal Google presentation from 2016 about the threat posed by companies like Facebook which said “to stop these guys from doing HB [header bidding] we probably need to consider something more aggressive.”Also included was an internal Google communication from November 2017 which mentioned a potential “partnership” with Facebook said the company’s aim was to “collaborate when necessary to maintain status quo.”From Facebook’s side of things, the unredacted lawsuit contained an email sent from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top-level executives, saying: “This is a big deal strategically.”

Google disputed the lawsuit’s characterization of its relationship with Facebook in a statement to Business Insider.”AG Paxton’s ad tech claims are inaccurate. We don’t manipulate the auction and Facebook’s participation in Open Bidding doesn’t prevent the company from participating in header bidding or any other similar auction,” a Google spokesperson said, adding that any implications of secrecy are inaccurate.”We’ve been public about this partnership for years,” the spokesperson said, directing Business Insider to a brief PR announcement about Google’s Open Bidding ad tech integrating with Facebook’s advertising service Facebook Audience Network from December 2018.”Facebook Audience Network (FAN) is one of over 25 companies participating in our Open Bidding program. There’s nothing exclusive about their involvement and they don’t receive data that is not similarly made available to other buyers,” Google’s spokesperson said.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

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