Warren Urges CFTC to Investigate Google for Manipulation of Online Advertising Market
"Today, the advertising market is functionally unregulated. It is a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and it is the main revenue driver for some of the country's largest companies."
"Given the power of a company like Google to unilaterally manipulate the online advertising market, it is critical that the CFTC ensures these new digital commodities are traded fairly and without harmful manipulation."
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to investigate Google's "Project Bernanke" and other practices for abuse and manipulation of the online advertising market. In the letter, Senator Warren calls for the CFTC to consider online advertising as a commodity and accordingly launch its own investigation into whether Google has engaged in anti-competitive abuses in this market.
"Court documents about Project Bernanke explain that Google made hundreds of millions of dollars every year through its secret market-abuse strategy. While state and federal enforcers are investigating this activity for potential violations of the antitrust laws, the activity raises additional concerns that I believe may be within the CFTC's jurisdiction and warrant close scrutiny," wrote Senator Warren.
Google operates the largest ad exchange and dominates the market for tools that publisher-buyers and advertiser-sellers must use to trade. The court documents of the Texas lawsuit against Google revealed the nature of Google's Project Bernanke scheme whereby Google allegedly gathered bid data through its ad exchange, AdX, from other market participants and then used that data to give its own ad-buying systems, DV360 and Google Ads, an advantage over their ad-buying competitors. Because Google was able to learn from rival ad buyers' previous bidding data, its ad-buying tools gained a competitive advantage that ultimately boosted their win rates, according to the plaintiffs. Google's ad-buying products thus became more attractive than those offered by rivals, killing off competitors that could not deliver advertisers the same win rates as Google.
"I call on the CFTC to investigate Project Bernanke as a potential violation of the CEA [Commodity Exchange Act]... Given the power of a company like Google to unilaterally manipulate the online advertising market, it is critical that the CFTC ensures these new digital commodities are traded fairly and without harmful manipulation," continued the Senator.
Senator Warren has consistently led the fight to rein in the abuses of Big Tech companies such as Google.
- In May 2021, Senator Warren delivered remarks at Freedom From Facebook and Google's virtual event calling to break up Big Tech.
- In April 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, releasing the results of a staff investigation revealing that Amazon search and sponsorship algorithms may be misleading consumers who are seeking FDA-approved COVID-19 masks during the pandemic.
- In March 2020, Senators Warren, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) sent a letter to Ascension, the second-largest health systems provider in the United States, requesting information regarding the company's information-sharing partnership with Google -- also known as Project Nightingale -- that provides Google with the health records of tens of millions of Americans.
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