Google has proposed splitting off parts of its massive ad tech business in order to fend off a second major federal antitrust suit, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The Alphabet-owned company suggested splitting up the parts of its business that place ads on websites and apps, turning it into a separate company, also under Alphabet, that could be worth tens of billions of dollars, sources told the Journal. Google would allow competitors to broker ad sales on YouTube as part of the proposal rather than going through its first-party ad-buying platform.
The move seems largely performative on Google's part, given that the company didn't propose actually selling off its ad assets. It's unclear whether this suggestion will be enough to end the Justice Department's probe of the company's advertising business. A Google spokesperson told the Journal that the company has "no plans to sell or exit this business."
“Rigorous competition in ad technology has made online ads more relevant, reduced fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers," the Google spokesperson said.
The DOJ has been probing Google's digital ad business for years and is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against the company for anticompetitive practices, alleging that the company abuses its power as a digital ad giant. The lawsuit could be filed this summer, according to the Journal.
Google is already facing one federal antitrust lawsuit alleging the company unfairly took advantage of its dominance in search. The company is also facing several different antitrust lawsuits from massive coalitions of states' attorneys general, alleging it has behaved anticompetitively in the search, app store, and ad tech businesses.