Google and Facebook reportedly struck a secret deal to consolidate the ad market

(Image credit: Facebook / Meta)

Google and Facebook are potentially in trouble after newly unsealed court documents revealed the two companies, which you might assume are tense rivals, actually signed a secret bid to consolidate the online ad market. 

According to the documents, reported on by the Wall Street Journal and Politico, Texas and other US states are alleging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai struck a secret deal in 2018 that gave preferences Facebook on Google's ad auctions. 

According to ad marketing company GroupM, Facebook, Google, and Amazon controlled 90% of the US digital ad market in 2020, up from 80% in 2019, collecting over 50% of US ad spend in the process. The fact that the "triopoly" have such a strong hold only adds to the peril for Google and Facebook. 


These aren't the first details of this deal. Back in December 2020, the Texas attorney general and others made similar allegations of a secret deal between Facebook and Google. 

Both companies deny such a deal exists or ever existed. 

According to Steven Levy's book about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg used to end meetings by shouting "Domination!", a practice that company lawyers – wary of antitrust pressure, especially in Europe – quickly stamped out. 

But the principle has guided Facebook (and now Meta) for as long as its existed, from "move fast and break things" to this day. The company has seen a lot of criticism over the past few years, some deserved and others overblown, and the alleged deal with Google feels fairly believable on those grounds. 

Of course, the documents are from an ongoing court case and some of the players, like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, have been highly critical in public of Google, Facebook, and other giant tech companies, especially in relation to their handling of Donald Trump. 

Only time will tell how far these cases, which are backed up by numerous (and bipartisan) state Attorneys General, but the claims are explosive and offer a potential window into how Google and Facebook got so dominant. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.