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Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday that he's leading a multi-state lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of taking illegal actions to hurt competition in the advertising technology market.

Why it matters: The lawsuit is yet another legal battle for Google, which is facing a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit on its search practices and imminent legal action from a separate group of state attorneys general who have also been investigating the company for anticompetitive behavior.

Driving the news: The state's lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Texas Wednesday afternoon, goes after Google's stranglehold on its corner of the ad tech market, which it and fellow tech giant Facebook dominate.

  • The suit accuses Google of abusing its market power to rig auctions for placing ads and drive up online advertising pricing.
  • Joining Texas on the suit are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. The AGs for all those states are, like Paxton, Republicans.

The intrigue: The suit also accuses Google of striking up a secret agreement with Facebook to avoid competing with each other’s ad-tech businesses, though the specifics of the allegations are heavily redacted.

Paxton has long been a foe of tech companies, and Texas is part of the recently filed multistate lawsuit against Facebook for alleged anticompetitive acquisitions and behavior.

  • A controversial figure in his own right, Paxton is separately facing claims from people who worked under him accusing him of bribery, abuse of office and other offenses. He also led the failed multistate effort to have the Supreme Court invalidate election results in crucial swing states and hand the 2020 election to President Trump.

What he's saying: "This Goliath of a company is using its power to manipulate the market, destroy competition and harm you, the consumer," Paxton said in an announcement video. "Google effectively eliminated its competition and crowned itself the head of online advertising."

The other side: "Attorney General Paxton’s ad tech claims are meritless, yet he’s gone ahead in spite of all the facts," a Google spokesperson said, maintaining that digital ad prices and ad-tech fees have both fallen, and that Google's fees are below the industry average.

  • "These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry. We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court."

What's next: The Justice Department is also investigating Google's role in the ad tech market and may still file a lawsuit in the matter. The suit the DOJ already filed focuses on Google's use of contracts to lock its search engine in as the default on web browsers and mobile devices.

  • Texas is one of a dozen states that have joined the DOJ on its suit, filed in October.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the lawsuit has now been filed, and to add information on the suit and Google's response.

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Washington Post adds video to its Zeus platform

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Washington Post will expand its performance software on Tuesday to add video to Zeus, its suite of ad placement and optimization tools.

Why it matters: The update brings the Post a step closer to an end-to-end platform for publishers and advertisers on the open web to compete for ad dollars with big tech firms like Google and Facebook.

Jan 25, 2021 - Technology

Facebook says it will give researchers access to political ad data

Facebook on Monday said it’s giving outside researchers more information about how and why political ads get shown to certain users.

Why it matters: Researchers have long complained that Facebook has been slow to grant experts access to information about ways its platform is used.

Jan 26, 2021 - Technology

Newsweek's opinion editor has an anti-tech side gig

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Newsweek's opinion page editor, Josh Hammer, consistently publishes op-eds slamming Big Tech and Google while remaining counsel at the Internet Accountability Project, a group partly funded by Oracle.

What's happening: The op-eds rail against Google's business model and size and the power and reach of big tech companies.

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