Activist philanthropy: eBay founders jump into Google antitrust battle

With nearly $1.7 billion in funding from the founders of eBay, the Omidyar Network has set it sights on rooting out inequality and monopolies.

Omidyar Network, a philanthropic organization, has released a report critical of Google's business practices and cites evidence of anti-trust activities and urges a speedy investigation by US federal and state authorities.

The report's authors state that Google has built an "ad tech stack" with integrated components that has captured the dominant share of digital advertising markets and keeps out competitors. The report points out that publishers get a raw deal because they have to rely on Google advertising revenues and also compete with Google's search ads — an unsustainable relationship.

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic organization that has received $1.64 billion from Pierre and Pam Omidyar — co-founders of E-Bay. This year it has taken on a more activist mandate and for the first time releasing policy papers such as this one on Google, and research papers on the future of work and worker power.

Its latest report is titled: Roadmap for a Digital Advertising Monopolization Case Against Google.  It explains how the company managed to build market dominance by excluding competitors and forcing media buyers and sellers to use its services.   

"The roadmap demonstrates how Google has acquired and asserted its dominance by creating significant barriers designed to prevent competitors from entering search and display advertising markets. The experts' analysis shows how Google's unequal access to user data, lack of transparency and asymmetric information, acquisitions, and conflicts of interest have created, maintained, and expanded the company's power in these domains."

The paper is designed to aid anti-trust investigators working for US State and Federal agencies and it relies on data from an investiagtion published in the United Kingdom. 

Google and other tech companies such as Facebook face considerable public and political criticism in the US for allowing outsiders to influence US elections and for avoiding tens of billions of dollars in tax payments. The tax payments issue will be especially sensitive as state and federal treasuries run empty dealing with the economic disaster of the Covid lockdown. 

The Omidyar Network says its goal is to build a more equitable society and encourage the use of technology in a responsible way. It operates through a charity arm and as a for-profit investment group — splitting its funds about 50/50.