On Monday, Rumble, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California contending that Google LLC and ten unnamed defendants violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, and Sections 4 and 15 of the Clayton Act by acquiring and maintaining a monopoly in the online video-sharing platforms market. The complaint argued that Google unlawfully suppressed competition through various practices including purposefully rigging its search algorithms and illegally giving preference to its YouTube video-sharing platform over Rumble and other competitors in Google search result listings.
Rumble, first launched in 2013, self-describes itself as “one of the most respected independent and privately owned companies in the online video-sharing platforms.” It reportedly enables small-scale individual content-creators to monetize their copyrighted videos by paying them royalties.
Rumble complained that Google eroded its success through anticompetitive and monopolistic behavior that coincided with its unlawful rise to the top of the search engine market, as detailed in the Department of Justice’s October 2020 complaint. The plaintiff claimed that Google leveraged this “ill-gotten” search engine market prominence to promote YouTube to the exclusion of other online video-sharing platforms.
Specifically, the complaint contended that Google unfairly rigged its search algorithms to prioritize YouTube links by listing them “above the fold” on its search results page. In so doing, the complaint alleged, Google wrongfully diverts scores of internet traffic to YouTube, “depriving Rumble of the additional traffic, users, uploads, brand awareness and revenue it would have otherwise received.”
In addition, Rumble accused Google of illegally tying the privilege of using its Android operating system to the requirement that manufacturers preinstall the YouTube app on Android operating system smartphones. The complaint alleged that this behavior further buoys YouTube over Rumble and others, harming competition in the online video-sharing platforms market.
The complaint explained that Rumble is unique among competitors because it has an extensive catalog of exclusively-assigned original content videos. For exclusive videos on its platform, Rumble receives between $10 and $30 per thousand views, but when that search traffic is routed to YouTube, Rumble has received only $0.48 on average per thousand views of its videos from YouTube, the filing stated. Rumble contended that because of this construct, it gets short shrift from Google’s self-preferencing algorithms and its YouTube-partial search results listing.
The complaint explained how Google relegates Rumble to near-irrelevance in its search results using the example of a video featuring an infant cuddling a cat. Screenshots within the complaint show how Google lists search results for the infant-cat video on YouTube first and fails to list Rumble whatsoever on the first results page. Google reportedly does so, “even though Rumble is the original source for this video, even though Google was aware of that fact, even though the search term was verbatim the title for the video as on Rumble’s platform, (and) even though all sources point back to Rumble as the original content source …”
Rumble seeks to enjoin Google from its ostensibly illegal practices and requests treble damage for the harm caused.
Rumble is represented by Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.