Sen. Warns Wants Federal Commission To Investigate Google for Manipulation of Online Advertising Market

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In full transparency, the following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.

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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. 

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