How to Hide an Antitrust Trial

Matt Stoller:

But this Google trial? By far the most important moment was when Judge Mehta denied a third-party motion to broadcast a publicly accessible audio feed of the trial for fear that information Google wishes wouldn’t be disclosed become public. Indeed, Google lawyers have explicitly argued that the judge should avoid allowing documents to become public solely because it is “clickbait.” To put it differently, the search giant literally argues material should stay sealed merely because if that material is interesting. Imagine if Bill Gates, or say, a routine defendant in any case, could have availed himself of that innovative legal argument!

The New York Times live-blogged the first day of the trial, but has not done so for any subsequent days. Given the recap posted by Stoller, it is not hard to see why: most of it has been conducted behind closed doors and away from the press using sealed evidence. Perhaps these discussions really would cause irreparable harm to Google if they were publicized. Notably, however, Judge Mehta tipped his hand ahead of the trial by noting he would “take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it’s going to cause competitive harm”, which is kind of like laying out the instructions for how to ensure anything untoward remains a secret.