In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Delaware County court, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost accused Google of manipulating results in search, a market in which Google is dominant, and giving preference to its own products in search results. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment, categorizing Google as a common carrier or public utility.
"Ohio also has an interest in ensuring that as a common carrier Google Search does not unfairly discriminate against third party websites; that Google carries all responsive search results on an equal basis; and that it provides the public with ready access to organic search results that the Google Search algorithms produce," the lawsuit reads.
The suit cites Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas throughout. Thomas recently argued in a concurrence that it is time to rein in Section 230, which protects online platforms from liability for third-party content, and laid out an argument as to why Facebook, Google and Twitter should be treated as common carriers.
"[T]here is a fair argument that some digital platforms are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated," the Ohio lawsuit quotes Thomas as writing. Thomas's concurrence was received by many as an invitation for cases that would enable the Supreme Court to answer these questions.
In addition to this suit, Yost, a Republican, joined with 37 other state attorneys general last year in another suit alleging Google had stifled competition in search.
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.