Newly unredacted documents from a state antitrust lawsuit against Google accuse the search giant of colluding with Facebook to manipulate online advertising sales. The lawsuit alleges that the CEOs of both companies were aware of the deal and signed off on it. The original lawsuit, which was filed in December 2021, accused Google of anti-competitive conduct and teaming up with the social networking giant. The unredacted version contains details on the involvement of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in approving the deal. Facebook has renamed itself Meta.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, stated that this was a big deal strategically in a 2018 email thread about the deal that included Facebook's CEO. The names of Facebook executives are still redacted in the suit, but their titles are visible.
The lawsuit states that when the two sides hammered out the terms of the agreement, the team sent an email directly to CEO Zuckerberg.
The email read, "We're nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward." The complaint states that Zuckerberg wanted to meet with Sandberg and his other executives before making a decision.
Peter Schottenfels, Google spokesman, said the lawsuit is full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit. The complaint states that the two companies signed the agreement in September 2018. According to the states' complaint, Sandberg, who was once the head of Google's Ad business, and Pichai personally signed off on the deal.
Chris Sgro, a company spokesman, said Friday that the company's Ad Bidding Agreement with Google and similar agreements with other bid platforms has helped to increase competition for ad placements. These business relationships allow Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while compensating publishers, resulting in better outcomes for all, Sgro said.
According to the lawsuit, Google used the code phrase Jedi Blue to refer to the 2018 agreement. This code phrase was kept secret by Google.
The lawsuit allegation that Pichai approved the deal with Facebook isn't true, according to Schottenfels. He said that the agreement was never a secret, because we sign hundreds of agreements every year that don't require CEO approval. The lawsuit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and is led by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.