The attorney behind a major class-action lawsuit against Google claims that advances in artificial intelligence give the digital monopoly almost unlimited power to control lives, influence thought and shape society.
"When the average person interacts with the internet, Google monitors and controls everything," John C. Herman, of Herman Jones LLP in Atlanta, told Fox News Digital.
"From the search results, to the advertisements, to the web pages themselves, Google controls it all," he said.
He also said, "Adding in an AI component, we now have a single company that dictates what news people see, what products they buy and even how they vote."
Herman represents Oklahoma businessman Craig McDaniel, publisher of SweepstakesToday.com, who filed a class-action lawsuit against Google in 2020.
The plaintiff claims that Google’s dominance of the digital advertising marketplace gives it the power to destroy competitors or almost any other company — and that this monopoly has caused material damage to his publishing business.
Google has moved to dismiss the case.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland on January 21, 2019 (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Department of Justice filed a substantially similar complaint against Google in January.
It has since been joined by attorneys general from 17 states, ranging from deep red states (Nebraska, West Virginia) to deep blue states (California, New York).
It’s a rare but powerful show of bipartisan unity to corral Google's power.
"Google is the largest monopoly in United States history," the McDaniel lawsuit claims.
"Google’s breathtaking monopoly power has been amassed and maintained by engaging in strategic acquisitions and illegal anticompetitive practices for many years," the lawsuit also says.
"Google has corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry," states the DOJ complaint.
Ronald Coleman, partner in Dhillon Law Group of Newark, New Jersey, told Fox News Digital, "If there is any reason to have antitrust laws in the 21st century, Google is the reason."
In this photo illustration a Google logo seen displayed on a smartphone screen in Athens, Greece on May 5, 2023. (Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Coleman also said, "Looking at that complaint, it’s really impressive heavy lifting. They really did their homework. There is no question that the breadth and depth of Google’s power, and its influence all around us, is phenomenal."
McDaniel, Herman's client, filed the lawsuit claiming that Google's alleged monopoly on digital advertising threatened to put his small publishing company out of business.
Google controlled 90% of the publisher ad-serving market, and 92% of the internet search market, as of 2020, according to the lawsuit. Its near-total control likely has grown since then, experts say.
McDaniel now claims that the release of Google AI chatbot Bard in February gives the global digital leviathan additional power on top of its advertising monopoly to portray sponsors and business partners favorably and to portray competitors unfavorably.
McDaniel claimed to Fox News Digital that he believes Bard is "defective" because there are often mistakes in responses and that Google should remove it from the market.
He also said that he believes the algorithm favors certain agencies or companies — and that "this smells to high heaven to me."
When asked about profitable Google partners such as Amazon or Pepsi, Bard offers detailed and favorable descriptions.
Yet when asked about McDaniel’s business, Bard responds, "I am not programmed to assist with that."
Sweepstakestoday.com has been in business since 2004. It consistently topped Google search rankings for "sweepstakes" for years. Ever since McDaniel filed the suit, it does not appear at the top of search lists, the plaintiff claims.
Google, he claimed, can erase the digital footprint of rivals, nuisance companies or just about anyone it wants.
McDaniel's site, Sweepstakestoday.com, has an ongoing history with Google and has been labeled as a "gambling" site by the tech giant in the past.
McDaniel denies that label, saying his site is free for consumers to use and that the sweepstakes it features are promotional events by independent parties.
Not everyone agrees that products like Bard give Google newfound power.
"I’m skeptical of the claim," Stephen Wu, chair of the American Bar Association Artificial Intelligence and Robotics National Institute, and shareholder with Silicon Valley Law Group, told Fox News Digital.
"They have so much capability already I’m not sure what AI adds. Google has already been using AI to recommend what people see," he said.
"Google Bard is just a generative AI system to create content, to create text. But Google is already powered by AI," he also said.
The complaints allege that Google already has proven its willingness and ability to destroy any competitor for digital advertising dollars.
The Department of Justice wrote in a statement in January, "Over the past 15 years, Google has engaged in a course of anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct that has consisted of neutralizing or eliminating ad tech competitors through acquisitions, wielding its dominance across digital advertising markets to force more publishers and advertisers to use its products, and thwarting the ability to use competing products."
Google’s digital monopoly is now armed with an artificial intelligence product that even the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, admitted in April that he and other experts do not understand, Fox News Digital previously reported.
"There is an aspect of this which we call — all of us in the field — call it a black box," Pichai said in an interview with "60 Minutes."
"You don’t fully tell why it said this, or why it got wrong. We have some ideas, and our ability to understand this gets better over time, but that’s where the state of the art is."
Bard is complementary to other search capabilities and has helped Google better understand the uses of generative AI, a Google spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
The Google spokesperson added that the company is "working with the ecosystem," including news publishers, to get their input and improve the product.
Fox News Digital reached out to Google for additional comment.