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Ohio’s lawsuit against Google can move forward

Ohio’s lawsuit against Google that claims the internet giant is subject to government regulation will move forward after a judge refused to throw it out.

Attorney General Dave Yost called the ruling the first of its kind.

Yost wants a legal declaration that Google Search is a common carrier, despite other courts that have ruled social media companies are not subject to common carrier rules that would designate them public utilities subject to government regulation and have a duty to deal fairly.

A Delaware County judge refused to dismiss the state’s lawsuit Thursday.

“Google cannot use its dominance in search to squeeze out competitors of other services, like travel reservations, shopping and consumer reviews,” Yost said.

The lawsuit, filed nearly a year ago, claims Google intentionally prioritizes search results for its products over organic search results and harms competitors by featuring its products and services prominently on its results pages.

According to a news release, Ohio is the first state to file a lawsuit asking for common carrier status for Google.

It also says the California-based company has a duty to offer sources or competitors rights equal to its own, claiming it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services and websites on search results.

Yost said he wants those equal rights to extend to advertisements, enhancements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct answers and other features.

The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.

Yost claims Google hurts Ohioans by not offering all the information in order for someone searching to make the best decision. He used searching for a flight as an example, saying if Google returns its own search results to steer someone to Google Flights, the person will not see offers from competitors such as Orbitz or Travelocity.

“Google search is designed to provide people with the most relevant and helpful results. AG Yost’s lawsuit would make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers,” Google said in a statement to The Center Square when the lawsuit was filed. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law, and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”

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