Google Answers Complaint Against YouTube Competitor Rumble

Tech titan Google has answered an antitrust complaint brought by Rumble, a YouTube competitor founded in 2013 that enables small-scale content-creators to make money from their video content through royalty payments. The answer, filed about a month after the court denied Google’s motion to dismiss, claims that many allegations are improper legal conclusions and raises multiple affirmative defenses.

Rumble sued Google in January 2021, alleging that Google, via YouTube, cornered the online video streaming market using anticompetitive, exclusionary, and monopolistic strategies. Among other things, the complaint pointed to algorithmic search result manipulation by Google, whereby it would self-preference YouTube video results over that of competitors like Rival. 

The filing also said that Google required Android OS phone manufactures to pre-install certain apps, including its YouTube app, through illegal tying agreements.

The cumulative harm, the plaintiff said, was the loss of substantial video search traffic. In turn, Rumble and its content creators who exclusively licensed their videos to Rumble suffered massive ad revenue losses.

The complaint stated one claim for relief under Section 2 of the Sherman Act for monopolization. Google sought to dismiss plaintiff’s tying and search-dominance theories of liability and strike several sections of the complaint.

In his July opinion, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. noted that Google’s partial motion to dismiss was “based on the somewhat counterintuitive premise that Plaintiff has pled too much.”

The court concluded that the plaintiff stated a Section 2 claim for self-preferencing by alleging that YouTube, which controls 73% of global online video activity, has monopoly power. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that Google has no valid business purpose for designing its search engine algorithms to show users YouTube links instead of links to its competitors’ sites. 

As to Google’s companion motion to strike, the court said that the contested allegations were not so “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous as to justify striking them.” Judge Gilliam concluded that development of the factual record would dictate whether the alleged conduct can survive a summary judgment motion or to warrant presentation to the jury at trial.

In its answer, Google disclaimed many of the allegations as legal conclusions and denied others. It also raised multiple affirmative defenses including failure to state a claim, procompetitive business justification, and First Amendment protection. 

Rumble is represented by Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP and Google by Williams & Connolly LLP.