Google accused of deleting potential evidence in US antitrust case

24 Feb 2023

Image: © JHVEPhoto/

The US Department of Justice claims Google continued to allow internal messages to be deleted every 24 hours, while the company has refuted these claims.

Google has been accused of violating US federal rules to preserve potential legal evidence by deleting internal communications every 24 hours, a court has heard.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that Google has “empowered and even encouraged” employees to have a “history off” setting for some written communications, which causes these chat logs to be deleted.

The DOJ claims the company continued deleting these messages for years, despite being ordered to stop the practice under a federal court rule in 2019.

“This means that for nearly four years, Google systematically destroyed an entire category of written communications every 24 hours,” the DOJ said in a court filing.

Google had allegedly been ordered to retain these messages in anticipation of upcoming legal action. The DOJ also claimed the tech giant “falsely” told the US government that it had suspended its auto-deletion practices.

The DOJ claims Google continued to let these messages be deleted throughout a US investigation and up to 8 February, after it had become “a defendant in this litigation”.

“At every turn, Google reaffirmed that it was preserving and searching all potentially relevant written communications,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ has asked the US court to issue sanctions against Google as a result of the claims. The Department claims the company only agreed to stop “destroying documents” when faced with a sanctions motion.

“In short, Google knowingly destroyed relevant documents until the risk of sanctions made such destruction untenable,” the DOJ said.

Google has “strongly” refuted the allegations. A company spokesperson told Reuters that its teams have “conscientiously worked for years to respond to inquiries and litigation”.

Last month, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Google, which claims the company has conducted anti-competitive practices within the adtech industry.

This complaint alleges that, over the past 15 years, Google has asserted its dominance in the adtech space by eliminating competition through acquisitions, forcing more publishers and advertisers to use its products and thwarting the ability to use competing products.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic