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According to US states, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has signed a deal with the antitrust office


Google’s chief executive approved an agreement with Facebook at the heart of an antitrust lawsuit 16 states and Puerto Rico have filed against the search giant, according to part of the complaint published on Friday.

The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argues that Google obtained and abused a monopoly over the technology network used to deliver online advertising.

When publishers began using an alternative system for selling their ad space, Google worked to undermine it by creating a similar system to control it, the lawsuit says. The states argue that Google struck a deal with Facebook to get the social network to join its effort to “kill” the publishers’ rival plan.

In the new unredacted portion of the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, states said Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive since 2015, “also personally signed the terms of the deal.”

The newly visible portions of the lawsuit also detail programs Google allegedly used to mislead buyers and sellers of ad space about the exact nature of the auctions they were participating in, thereby allowing Google to make more money.

A Google spokesman said the complaint was “still riddled with inaccuracies and without any legal basis”.

“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” the spokesman said.

In another newly released piece, the states cite a February 2017 “Facebook document” that said Google wanted to “kill” the competing system and that Facebook “will help significantly by naming their product.”

At one point, Facebook employees working on the deal emailed Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, saying, “We’re almost ready to sign and need your approval to move forward.” Mr. Zuckerberg’s name is still removed from the lawsuit, but his title is not.

In a statement, a spokesman for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said the deal with Google “and the similar arrangements we have with other bidding platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements.”

The antitrust lawsuit is one of several filed by government agencies against tech giants over the past two years. The Justice Department and a group of states have sued Google, arguing that it abused an online search monopoly. This week, a judge said the Federal Trade Commission could proceed with a lawsuit against Facebook. Apple and Amazon are also facing antitrust investigations.

The judge in the case said Google has until next Friday to respond to the latest version of the lawsuit. Google plans to ask the judge to dismiss the case, its spokesman said.


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