Rumble’s antitrust lawsuit against Google can proceed, says judge
A California judge says video service Rumble can proceed with the early stages of an antitrust suit against Google. Rumble sued Google in 2021, alleging that it favored its own YouTube video platform in search results and the Android operating system. Google urged the court to split the suit’s arguments and dismiss substantial parts of the reasoning as well as strike parts of the suit related to Android app preinstallation. Judge Haywood Gilliam declined to do so late last week, putting the case on track to proceed — although it could still be dismissed before it reaches trial.
Rumble’s suit overlaps with several ongoing Big Tech controversies. The company takes aim at Google’s deals with Android phone makers, who typically agree to preinstall bundles of Google apps and limit non-Google app preinstallations or changes to the operating system, sometimes in ways that antitrust watchdogs have found unlawful. It also alleges that Google unfairly loads the top results of searches for videos with YouTube links, burying Rumble results — similar to complaints made by “vertical” search engine providers over the past decades.
“Rumble’s success … has been far less than it could and should have been as a direct result of Google’s unlawful anticompetitive, exclusionary and monopolistic behavior,” the complaint asserts.
Rumble is also part of a conservative-friendly web ecosystem that has catered (with varying levels of exclusivity) to right-leaning users who claim they’ve been censored on larger platforms like Google. It filed its suit around the same time alternative social network Parler attempted to sue Amazon on antitrust grounds, but while that suit made some fairly tenuous claims about competition, Rumble’s plays on widely acknowledged concerns about Google’s ecosystem. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have both pushed for legislation that could limit the kind of “self-preferencing” described in the complaint.
In its response to Rumble’s lawsuit, Google alleges that Rumble content is ranked as highly as it deserves. “Rival search engines like Microsoft Bing, Yahoo Search, and DuckDuckGo each return results similar to Google — they too rank YouTube’s videos ahead of Rumble’s,” it says. “Google attempts to return search results most likely to satisfy consumers, regardless of whether such results include content found on Google’s YouTube service.”
Judge Gilliam says Google’s arguments weren’t compelling enough to warrant stripping out significant portions of Rumble’s case. But whether they survive a later motion for summary judgment or warrant going to trial, says Gilliam, “is a matter for a later stage of the case.”