Google’s Doped-Up Horse— Facebook

by | Jan 20, 2021 | Google Ads

The metaphor is apt. Horse doping is illegal for a few reasons—to ensure the races are fair, and to keep the horses safe. In a report by Daisuke Wakabaya and Tiffany Hsu of the NY Times, court filings by 10 state attorneys general allege that Google and Facebook, as of December of 2018, came to an agreement that essentially monopolizes ad space in the favor of the two companies. Both Google and Facebook deny the claims of the suits, despite “the word ‘antitrust’ is mentioned no less than 20 times” within their 2018 agreement, the draft complaint alleges.

On Your MarkZuckerberg

The commotion all began in 2017 when Facebook began “testing a new way of selling online advertising that would threaten Google’s control of the digital ad market.” After a couple years, wherein Zuckerberg was forced to face either spending billions on development and hiring hundreds of engineers, or cutting a back-door deal with Google. Zuckerberg chose the easy, and more lucrative way out, according to the complaint.

Get Set…

Google’s agreement with Facebook provides Facebook with a guaranteed number of wins in the ad auctions that happen every second, or in this case millisecond, the suit alleges. With Google and Facebook accounting for more than half of the digital marketing in the world, both companies understood that their palms would stay thoroughly greased up, despite the continuing itches, if they partnered.


Folksy palm idioms aside, understanding the ins and outs of how digital marketing works behind the scenes is a labyrinth of information written literally in a different language. Wakabaya and Hsu explain the crux of what is up for debate in understandable terms saying, “In the milliseconds between a user clicking on a link to a web page and the page’s ads loading, bids for available ad space are placed behind the scenes in marketplaces known as exchanges, with the winning bid passed to an ad server. Because Google’s ad exchange and ad server were both dominant, it often directed the business to its own exchange.”

Google Owns the Track

As stated in a previous blog, Google wrote the book when it comes to digital marketing, and if you are going into business in marketing, you must learn the rules, tips, and tricks of how to succeed in Google on Google. The company, in the form of a global behemoth capitalist monster, adapted the platform, created the rules, changes the rules, sets standards and practices, polices itself with little outside intervention until now, and controls the ad space.

In most, if not all ways, Google does everything by the book legally, but a capitalist system of governing monetary equity in the digital space is not equipped to control or even address the ways in which Google has gained total control of the market. In other words, Google is smart, young, and rich, and lawmakers are old, ill-informed, or uncomprehending, and this puts everyone else in a poor position. Everyone else must play by the Google rules to make a living, while aiding the behemoth in gaining more power and control, and there are not substantial laws put in place to monitor Google and their partners and subsidiaries effectively.

Promised First Place

The Google/Facebook partnership itself is also problematic, according to the NY Times’ reporting of other Google partners. Six of the 20 major Google partners went on record with the NY Times to say that the ad deals that they had made with Google did not include most of the perks that Facebook had gotten in their deal. The alleged preference towards Facebook of course makes business sense being that Facebook spent $9.9 billion in ad spend in 2019.

They’re on Notice

These suits and legal proceedings with Google and Facebook are going to be decades in the making, but we already see a possible uncovering of how these powers came to be and continue to be. For any true equity to enter the arena of digital marketing, there needs to be an independent body that knows what goes on in the markets and understands the constant changes. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is that body right now, but to be candid, they are in over their heads. If you think our current government agencies can police tech giants, I invite you to watch Zuckerberg in front of congress explaining how Facebook works.

Taking down Zuckerberg's monster | The Seattle Times
Cartoon by David Horsey- Seattle Times

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