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Justice Department and Google spar over public access to antitrust trial files

The Justice Department has removed access to publicly posted trial documents in US v. Google amid a dispute over how files should be made available online, according to reporter Leah Nylen of Bloomberg. Nylen, reporting from the courtroom, said that Judge Amit Mehta will make a decision in the morning on future online access to exhibits.

The Big Tech On Trial newsletter reported more details of the exchange, which apparently occurred during an exchange between the Justice Department and Google over whether an exhibit could be submitted as evidence. Google’s attorneys apparently raised the fact that the Justice Department had been posting documents online, a fact Mehta said he hadn’t been aware of. (The Verge has linked to the now-removed page in previous trial coverage.) Big Tech On Trial reports that Mehta said he isn’t necessarily opposed to the documents being posted and that the Justice Department offered to notify Google of what it planned to post in advance, potentially averting future conflict.

Google declined to comment on the record about the dispute, and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The page formerly hosting exhibits from the trial is currently offline, although a snapshot from last week remains available via the Internet Archive. As Nylen pointed out, Google also has a page for information from the trial, hosting slides from its own opening arguments in court.

As public records, court documents are frequently posted online during trials, and in some cases, that’s led to unintended disclosures. The FTC’s recent court battle with Microsoft, for instance, led to details leaking from incomplete redactions as well as a trove of apparently mistakenly uploaded documents that revealed internal plans for a new Xbox console earlier this week.

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And US v. Google has been a constant tug-of-war over public access to what might be one of the most consequential antitrust trials of the decade. Google, Apple, and others have argued that the trial threatens to expose sensitive financial information as the Justice Department makes its case that Google established an unlawful monopoly in the search engine business. Unlike several similar high-profile cases, it’s not being broadcast remotely, except for an audio feed covering a portion of the first day, granted as a request at the last minute. Now, we’re waiting to see how much of this information will continue to be posted as the 10-week trial proceeds.

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