Google’s Guide to the Senate Antitrust Hearing

From: eWeek

By: Clint Boulton

To prepare consumers for tomorrow’s Senate antitrust hearing against Google, the company has created a Web page countering antitrust allegations against it.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sept. 20 published a guide to the Senate’s hearing on whether the company’s search engine business harms competition and consumer choice.

The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee will convene Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. local time in Washington D.C., where Google Executive Chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt is expected to testify under oath about whether the company favors its own products in its search results to shut out rivals.

Yelp, TripAdvisor and others have argued that Google, which has search share of 65 percent in the U.S. and more overseas, has used their local reviews even as it favors its own Google Places local search service over their own content.

These are some of the same issues at the heart of current antitrust investigations into the company by the European Commission and U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

To underscore its position on the issues, Google launched this guide to the Senate antitrust hearing. The material provides responses to antitrust allegations made against the company. It’s set up as hypothetical statements, with Google answering each one in a detailed fashion and anticipating follow-up questions.

For example, Google advised users that when they hear the allegation that “Google favors its own content,” they should understand the following:

  • Google ranks search results to deliver the best answers to users, and that is the only consideration—not political viewpoints and not advertising dollars.
  • Sometimes the best, most useful answer to a query is one of the traditional “ten blue links.”  But sometimes it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, flight times, video, shopping results or a map—any of which we may place above or among the other results from across the Web. 
  •  

    Every search engine has shifted toward providing more answers directly in the search results because it’s what consumers want. Microsoft and search experts agree.

The Website counters the glut of anti-Google cannon fire from groups such as Consumer Watchdog and FairSearch.org.

Consumer Watchdog has hurled anti-Google sentiment for a few years, creating satirical cartoons that portray Schmidt as a glutton for consumer data. In the latest video, Schmidt is joined by Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page in spying on and siphoning data from unsuspecting users.

FairSearch.org, led by former Justice Department antitrust division leader Thomas O. Barnett, teamed up with Expedia, Kayak and Microsoft last fall to oppose Google’s $700 million purchase of travel search enabler ITA Software.

When that deal was approved by the Justice Department in April after a near-yearlong antitrust inquiry, FairSearch pivoted to criticize Google’s broader search business.

The group accused Google of favoring its own products, manipulating search results to penalize rivals, scraping content from smaller rivals, buying its way into markets, monkeying with advertisers’ quality scores and abusing its business partners for favorable licensing.

FairSearch has created a document of quotes from Schmidt, Page and others that have been pulled out of context to portray Google as grounded in greed. The FairSearch.org Website offers an additional bag of videos, cartoons and an economic analysis of the impact of Google’s dominance—a virtual library of anti-Google material for the hearing this week.

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