COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A lawsuit wanting to add government oversight over Google is receiving its day in court, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced.
The lawsuit filed in 2021 will have a saga confirmed to stretch over three years, with the trial date set for May 14, 2024. Yost said the trial would take place in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, and would hear arguments on declaring Google’s search engine a common carrier.
The common carrier moniker — usually saved for companies providing public telecommunications — would mean that Google Search would be subject to government regulation. Yost originally sought to have Google named as a public utility. The attorney general has argued for over a year that Google should offer its competitors equal placement in search results served to users.
“By manipulating search results to self-preference its own products, Google is tilting the playing field against consumers and against emerging competitors,” Yost said.
The tech company filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the case before it reached trial, making the argument that its search engine develops a “subjective opinion about what the user will find most beneficial.” Google took a partial victory from that in May 2022, as the presiding judge threw out the portion of the lawsuit attempting to brand it as a public utility.
However, the judge also partially denied the company’s motion, allowing Yost to continue with his lawsuit to potentially mark it as a common carrier. The public utility marking would have meant the government could treat Google like an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service, such as natural gas or electricity.
“When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access,” Yost said after the partial dismissal.
Yost’s lawsuit is another example of state officials challenging the power of major tech companies. A separate Ohio House of Representatives bill is targeting social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s own Youtube. The bill, if passed into law, would allow individual Ohioans to file civil lawsuits against social media companies with more than 50 million U.S. users that block, remove or restrict them from using their sites.