Warren urges CFTC to investigate Google for manipulation of online advertising market


“Today, the advertising market is functionally unregulated. It’s a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and it’s the main driver of revenue for some of the country’s biggest companies.

“Given the power of a company like Google to unilaterally manipulate the online advertising market, it is essential that the CFTC ensure that these new digital products are traded fairly and without adverse manipulation. “

Text of the letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON DC – US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Sent a letter urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to investigate Google’s “Project Bernanke” and other practices of abuse and manipulation of the online advertising. In the letter, Senator Warren calls on the CFTC to treat online advertising as a commodity and, therefore, to launch its own investigation to determine whether Google has engaged in anti-competitive abuse in this market.

“Court documents on the Bernanke project explain that Google made hundreds of millions dollars every year thanks to its covert market abuse strategy. As state and federal authorities investigate this activity for potential violations of antitrust laws, the activity raises additional concerns which, in my opinion, may fall within the jurisdiction of the CFTC and warrant close scrutiny, ” wrote Senator Warren.

Google operates the largest ad exchange and dominates the market for the tools publisher-buyers and advertiser-sellers should use to trade. Legal documents from the Texas lawsuit against Google have revealed the nature of Google’s Bernanke Project system in which Google would have collected auction data via its ad exchange, AdX, from other market players, then used this data to give to its own ad buying systems, DV360 and Google Ads, an advantage over their competitors when it comes to buying ads. Because Google was able to learn from previous auction data from rival ad buyers, its ad buying tools gained a competitive advantage that ultimately increased their win rates, according to the plaintiffs. Google’s ad-buying products thus became more attractive than those offered by its competitors, killing competitors who could not offer advertisers the same success rates as Google.

“I call on the CFTC to investigate the Bernanke project as a potential violation of the CEA [Commodity Exchange Act]… Given the power of a company like Google to unilaterally manipulate the online advertising market, it is essential that the CFTC ensure that these new digital products are traded fairly and without detrimental manipulation ”, continued the senator.

Senator Warren has always led the fight to curb abuse by big tech companies like Google.

  • In May 2021, Senator Warren spoke at Freedom From Facebook and Google’s Virtual Event Calling to Break Big Tech.
  • In April 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, ​​releasing the results of a staff investigation revealing Amazon’s search and sponsorship algorithms may mislead consumers looking for FDA-approved COVID-19 masks during the pandemic.
  • In March 2020, Senators Warren, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Bill Cassidy (R-La.) sent a letter to Ascension, the second-largest health systems provider in the United States, requested information about the company’s information-sharing partnership with Google, also known as Project Nightingale, which provides Google with the medical records of dozens millions of Americans.


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