Google Accused of Deleting Chat Evidence by DOJ in Antitrust Case

Google Accused of Deleting Chat Evidence by DOJ in Antitrust Case

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused Google of regularly deleting internal messaging chat histories that the company is required to preserve under federal rules for an antitrust lawsuit. This lawsuit is one of several that Google is currently facing, including one by the DOJ and groups of states for unlawfully maintaining monopolies around search and search-related advertising.

According to the DOJ’s filing, Google employees typically used their internal chatroom, which was set to delete history every 24 hours, to discuss “substantive and sensitive business.” The agency expected Google to change its chat history setting in 2019 when the company “reasonably anticipated [the] litigation,” but it left the decision to individual employees. Only a few people deemed their chat histories relevant to the case and preserved theirs for the court, while Google continued deleting most people’s chats even after the lawsuit was filed.

Google reportedly told the government that it had already “put a legal hold in place” to suspend auto-deletion on its chat tool. However, the DOJ alleges that the company’s claim was a lie and that it only stopped deleting chat histories this week after being warned that the agency would file a motion for sanctions. The DOJ is now asking the court to rule that Google violated a federal rule and to order a hearing to determine how the company should be sanctioned. It also wants the court to order Google to provide more information about its chat practices.

Google denies the DOJ’s allegations, with a spokesperson stating that the company has produced over 4 million documents in this case alone and millions more to regulators around the world. Despite the denial, the accusation adds further pressure on Google, which is facing increasing scrutiny from regulators over antitrust concerns.

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