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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 - World

Former Google CEO and others call for U.S.-China tech "bifurcation"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

The rebellion against Silicon Valley (the place)

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Silicon Valley may be a "state of mind," but it's also very much a real enclave in Northern California. Now, a growing faction of the tech industry is boycotting it.

Why it matters: The Bay Area is facing for the first time the prospect of losing its crown as the top destination for tech workers and startups — which could have an economic impact on the region and force it to reckon with its local issues.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

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