BuzzFeed News reports:
Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally signed off on a secret advertising deal that allegedly gave Facebook special privileges on Google’s ad platform, according to newly unredacted court documents filed on Friday.
The allegation is from a complaint first filed in December 2020 by Texas and several other states against Google for engaging in “false, deceptive, or misleading acts” while operating its buy-and-sell auction system for digital ads. In the complaint, state attorneys general claim Google illegally teamed up with Facebook, its fiercest competitor in the digital advertising market, for a 2018 deal Google dubbed “Jedi Blue” in a reference to Star Wars. Prior to the alleged deal, Facebook appeared to threaten Google’s dominance in the market by backing an ad-buying technique called “header bidding.” “Google understood the severity of the threat to its position if Facebook were to enter the market and support header bidding,” the complaint reads. “To diffuse this threat, Google made overtures to Facebook.”
In the end, Facebook backed off after Google agreed to give the social network “information, speed, and other advantages” in auctions run by Google, the complaint says.
The newly unredacted version of the complaint shows that the deal was allegedly struck at the highest levels of the companies, a noteworthy level of cooperation from two of the most powerful companies in the world.