The United States sued Google accusing the company of allegedly abusing its dominance in online search and advertising and using its market muscle to hobble rivals. The Justice Department lawsuit could lead to the break-up of an iconic company that has become all but synonymous with the internet and assumed a central role in the lives of billions of people around the globe. The outcome is far from assured but the case is likely to take years to resolve. The lawsuit marks the first time the US has cracked down on a major tech company since it sued Microsoft for anti-competitive practices in 1998. Other major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook are under investigation by both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. The suit said these agreements include long-term agreements requiring that Google search be pre-loaded on devices and making it impossible to delete some of its apps. The government claims Google pays billions to maintain that position, thus reinforcing its monopoly position. The lawsuit filed in Washington contends that Google’s actions shut out competitors, and proposes that the court consider a range of remedies. The filing calls for the court to “enjoin Google” from anticompetitive practices and consider “structural” changes to the company—which could mean breaking it up. Google called the lawsuit “deeply flawed.” “People use Google because they choose to—not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” Google general counsel Kent Walker said in a blog post. “This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.” The move comes after months of investigations by US federal and state antitrust enforcers seeking to check the company’s power, and parallel probes into other titans such as Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Progressives have accused the firms of stifling competition and worsening economic inequality. A recent House of Representatives report suggested Google and others should be broken up to preserve competition.