Back in August of 2017, Google banned the Gab.ai app from the Google Play store on the grounds that the app facilitated “hate speech”, as reported by Business Insider. The removal was done on rather vague terms and with a rather unclear approach as to how Gabe.ai exactly violated the terms of Google Play’s service. Well, the owners of the social media platform — which originally sprouted up in 2016 as an alternative to Twitter — decided to sue Google for violating antitrust laws.
In a post on Medium published on September 15th, 2017, they explain that this is essentially a David versus Goliath fight and that Google spends plenty of money to avoid being fined for antitrust violations. Nevertheless, they feel as if the law is on their side.
Gab’s attorney, Marc Randazza, explained that Google’s monopoly on social media and search engine functionality while also utilizing a platform to restrict Gab from being available on the app store is a clear antitrust violation….
“Google Play and Android have monopoly power in the app store market, and Google’s apps YouTube and Google+ compete directly against Gab. Google’s intimate partnership with Twitter, which also competes against Gab, makes Google’s control of all Android apps available through the Play Store a serious restraint of trade issue.
“[…] regardless of Google’s pretextual justification for removing Gab, the effect is that they used their monopoly power in the app store to block an upstart competitor it in the social media app market, to the detriment of millions of consumers who value free speech.”
It really is a very clear and concise definition of an antitrust violation. If you read Section 2 of the Sherman Act, as outlined in the Antitrust Enforcement remarks on the Department of Justice Website, it clearly defines what would constitute a violation of antitrust…
“ Unlawful monopolization occurs when one firm controls the market for a product or service, and it has obtained that market power, not because its product or service is superior to others, but by suppressing competition with anticompetitive conduct.”
Makan Delrahim from the Antitrust Division at the DOJ further explained in the piece how the violation works, stating…
“[…] the mere possession of monopoly power does not violate Section 2. Instead, the statute applies only to monopolies that are acquired or maintained by virtue of a firm’s unreasonably exclusionary conduct. A related principle is that a monopolist has no general obligation to aid its competitors. So you need both status (having a monopoly or a dangerous probability of gaining a monopoly) and exclusionary conduct in order to violate Section 2.”
So Google has both dangerous probability of gaining a monopoly (if not running a monopoly at this point) and the act of banning the Gab.ai app in an exclusionary manner most certainly fits the description of an antitrust violation. This rings especially true given that despite different companies making different types of Android devices, every company using Android OS must use the Google Play store when it comes to app distribution.
The other problem is that is that Google flagged Gab.ai for hate speech transmitted through user content and not necessarily because of something Gab.ai actually did. This then should apply to all apps that allow for user transmitted texts, images, discussions or communications that could allow people to engage in what Google deems as “hate speech”. Hence, this should apply to every game with a text or chat option, every social media service with a direct message or public messaging service, and every other piece of software that also affords users to publicly display messages. The fact that Google singled out Gab.ai definitely makes it look like they’re using their control over the Android app marketplace to purposefully prevent the service from growing.
This comes at a time where Google is still undergoing an investigation from the Department of Labor for unfair wages toward female workers, as well as a separate lawsuit from three former female employees suing the company for wage discrimination. That’s not to mention that they’re also being sued by former engineer James Damore, after he was fired for what he believes is Google discriminating against employees for not toeing the Leftist corporate agenda.