In a landmark case for digital advertising, Google has been fined 220 million Euros by the French government for prioritizing its own services over competitors. Google’s place in the world of digital advertising is a privileged one: the company directs the majority of all internet advertising. The bulk of the internet’s infrastructure is built through Google’s own servers.
France’s anti-competition board claimed that Google was giving itself preferential treatment in its online advertising. Google agreed to the fine as the watchdog laid it out and stated in a recent blog post that they agreed with the French government’s recommendation on how to remedy the situation going forward.
The case is notable as it marks the first time a government has formally chastised Google over the tech company’s online advertising presence. While the case is limited in scope to France, Google has agreed to roll out the changes into their global advertising business.
The case was originally brought forward by three French companies, including News Corp and the Rossel La Voix group. A third group, Le Figaro, backed out of the official proceedings after they started.
The official complaint from the companies held that Google was using its position as the main director of digital traffic to prioritize its own services more highly in advertisements. The suit was primarily aimed at advertisements involving news articles. France’s competition agency found the company to be in violation of French law regarding advertising and ordered Google to pay the 220 million Euro fine.
Euronews reported that the agency’s president, Isabelle de Silva, felt that the case was historic. “It is the first decision in the world to examine the complex algorithmic bidding processes by which online display advertising operates,” de Silva noted after the official hearing. “This sanction and these commitments will restore a level playing field for all players, and the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising space.”
Google has taken the news in stride, agreeing with the agency’s recommendations and accepting the fine as-is. Google’s prominent role as a delivery system for online content was the major reason France’s government insisted on the policy change.
The company has agreed to alter the processes that lead to publishers having their ads seen by users following algorithmic ad targeting. Google also noted its commitment to making its tools easier to use for publishers in the future, so that advertisers have access to more robust data about which users are seeing their ads.
With the internet growing to become a daily part of life for most people on the planet, cases like this one are critical for charting a course forward for years to come.