Google is finishing the week with more antitrust headaches. Reuters reports a group of Texas-led US states has filed an amended version of its lawsuit against Google over alleged abuses of power in the online ad business. The updated complaint provides more detail about Google's purported efforts to stifle competition, including the secret "Project Bernanke" ad buying program.
The states said Google used Project Bernanke in 2015 to drop the second-highest bids from publishers' ad auctions, pool money and pour those those funds into only those bids using Google Ads. That gave Google Ads bidders an unfair advantage and helped them win auctions they likely would have lost, according to the revised lawsuit.
We've asked Google for comment. It previously confirmed the existence of Project Bernanke, but maintained there was no wrongdoing and that the states' lawsuit "misrepresents" its ad business. The refreshed lawsuit may pose additional challenges to Google, though. At the least, the amendment underscores the states' attitude toward Google — they're determined to curb its behavior.
Update 11/15 1PM ET: A Google spokesperson pointed Engadget to the company's original post criticizing the Texas-led lawsuit. When it touched on Project Bernanke, it claimed the Texas Attorney General "mischaracterizes" improvements to Google Ads and that the data and strategies involved are open to "any buyer" involved in auctions. You can read the full quote below.
AG Paxton mischaracterizes one of many improvements Google Ads has made to optimize advertiser bids. This was entirely implemented by Google Ads for buyers, using the kinds of data and strategies that are available to any buyer participating in an Ad Exchange auction. Like many other businesses, we constantly work to improve our products and compete more effectively. That's the kind of behavior that increases competition and makes ads more effective for businesses large and small.