|Should the Government Regulate Google|
SE's HaveTremendous Marketing Clout
In the United States the amount of advertising in magazines and newspapers is regulated indirectly by the Post Office. Discount postage if only available to publications that limit advertisements. The FCC regulates the Radio and TV industry. The FTC regulates Telemarketers.
The Internet is too large to regulate as a whole but as the Search Engines consolidate their dominance on Internet marketing, I wonder if lawmakers and regulators will turn their eye on Google and the other large SEs.
There is no shortage of people with poor ratings that are discontent. I expect they are the majority of site owners. The sites using unpaid listing have a whole industry unfairly manipulating the unpaid results. A review of the SEO claims whould show they are as wildly exaggerated as many spam mailing pieces.
On the paid side, large entrenched businesses with huge budgets are crowding out small mom and pop operations.
While the masses may be discontent, they are not exhibiting the same angst that the receiver of spam but what happens after spam is regulated.
With Telemarketing and Spam controlled does the government then turn its eye on Google? Do the major Search Engines need to be regulated like we do the 4 TV networks?
What are the reasons for regulating something?
If anybody can answer that easily (I can't find a straight forward discussion on the Internet) then the question "Should search engines be regulated" can be answered by testing the business of a "search engine" against each of the reasons for regulating something.
If you search for "should Google be regulated", you find many a discussion on the topic, but not one that i've come across that actually steps back and looks at the reasons for regulating something.
They all go like this...
Poster A: "Should Google be regulated?"
Poster B: "No way! Google is a great search engine."
...which doesn't get you anywhere.
|There is no shortage of people with poor ratings that are discontent. I expect they are the majority of site owners. |
You are 100% correct. And that situation will never change.
It won't change for the simple fact that only ten web sites can physically occupy the top ten of the serps. Forever and every until the end of time will the majority of site owners remain outside, gnashing their teeth and wailing.
|On the paid side, large entrenched businesses with huge budgets are crowding out small mom and pop operations. |
Large corporations can be just as inept as a small mom & pop. I have a couple small fry clients who are up against the national chains and they do exceptionally well. I've busted adwords cheaters and had them blown away so my clients could earn a decent roi.
Is it surprising that they needed to hire a professional to do it for them? No.
In any endeavour it makes sense to hire a pro to do it for you. When you need a sign for your shop, you could always do it yourself, but in all likelihood it will look inept- same on the web.
As for regulating the search engines, there was some noise [news.com.com] about it last year, August 2002, in regard to the labeling of paid listings- which didn't really affect Google because their listings were obviously labeled.
Should the Government Regulate Google?
This is truly a case where technology moves faster than the "system".
I do think they need to keep an expectant eye on the company they are now regulating (MS), as they continue to develop search into their next generation OS.
Google and all others will be obsoleted in a few short months when the "we don't call it a browser anymore so we can bundle it with the OS" OS is released (I think some folks call it Longhorn).
Interestingly enough, the search that MS comes up with will probably blow away pure algo driven SE's in quality for one simple reason: *User Data*.
By the time the courts get around to fiddling with the other SE's, it will be mostly moot.
"If you search for "should Google be regulated", you find many a discussion on the topic, but not one that i've come across that actually steps back and looks at the reasons for regulating something."
Well in this forum last week the issue was raised about regulating Microsoft's SE business because it is a monopoly and since it is moving to the concept that IE is just part of the OS. If people want to regulate one of the big three why not all three?
In the case of Radio and TV, the federal government began regulating because under it has the powers under the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution. The ownership of the radio and tv networks by a few very powerful companies was not deemed in the public interest. The FCC just tried to loosen up its ownership rules and congress reacted swiftly. In the House expansion of ownership privleges was voted against by a margin of 400 to 12 (not actual number but a huge margin like that).
A site submitter to any of the GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) SEs is faced with an unknown and ever changing set of criteria. Do any of these criteria unfairly discriminate against a protected minority? Are sites that implement handicap accommodations being penalized?
Certainly it is against the wishes of the SEs but sites with fraud and pornography are returned by the search engines. Should there be government oversight and imposed regulations to prevent the SEs from returning this stuff?
There is real truth in the idea that if you are not positioned well in the search engines, you might as well close your commercial site. With so much economic clout in the hands of the big three isn't it something that requires regulation?
Just reading this article yesterday, Cyril...
Eleven Things That Will Happen, Part 1 [clickz.com]
I agree whole-heartedly with the others on the first page, so it's credible by association, I guess.
|Search engine regulation. Search engines are really the main portals (more cynically, chokepoints) of the Web. The power wielded by Google, Yahoo!, Overture, and MSN is astounding. If you don't show up on search engines, you might as well not exist. In a world increasingly dependent on the Web, that's a lot of power. One that won't go unnoticed by government types (or lawyers) forever. At some point, someone's going to file a class action suit, or some legislator whose business got lousy rankings is going to say, "Hey! This isn't fair!" I don't know how attempts at regulation will pan out, but it's inevitable the government will try to get involved. |
|There is real truth in the idea that if you are not positioned well in the search engines, you might as well close your commercial site. |
There's a harsh reality that only ten sites can be positioned well.
Ironically for this discussion, only Google has made it possible, with Adwords, to have more than ten sites positioned well on a 10 site default SERP.
Gotta love their pointy little heads.
On the paid side, large entrenched businesses with huge budgets are crowding out small mom and pop operations."<
Of course thats true with most adv. (tv,radio,print etc.)
And as the big boys become more aware of seo it will only get worse.
Its too bad the se field isnt more evenly balanced with more engines. Then this question wouldn't come up so much..
>> If people want to regulate one of the big three why not all three?
"Judge Jackson had already ruled that Microsoft had broken antitrust laws, abusing its dominant position in the computer operating system market."
Microsoft has demonstrated a need to be regulated Cyril, the others have a pretty clean history.
"There's a harsh reality that only ten sites can be positioned well."
Like most people I have a good feeling for Google and it is my SE of choice. But the climate in the United States at the moment is impose regulations on technology.
We see the success of building the anti-telemarketing database. Certainly with good cause, legislators are looking to regulate email.
We all know of the Microsoft monopoly trials. We remember that AT&T was broken up when it became too dominant and further back that IBM had to divest part of its operation when it was deemed an unfair monopoly. Oracle is now being looked at as it attempts to acquire Peoplesoft.
Sun is suing Microsoft, SCO is suing IBM and potentially 1500 large Linus sites. AT&T is going after MCI. The SEC is looking at AOL/TimeWarner etc, etc, etc.
In the US, any big success seems to draw litigation and demands for regulations. So I looked at the Search Engine business and wondered if Google was ripe.
More and more businesses are competing in the courts and through the regulators. After all you can't regulate just Microsoft in the SE world without regulating the others too.
afaik there's two distinct reasons for regulation:
1) Economics: When the costs for society as a whole arising from companyX's natural urge to earn money gets higher than the rewards arising from the same source. That's a "welfare loss" and may lead to regulation.
2) Politics: Any rational or irrational reason may lead to regulation
|martinibuster says: |
"There's a harsh reality that only ten sites can be positioned well."
Which means that no matter how you regulate the industry, only ten sites can fit into ten positions.
What are you advocating, a lottery system?
You can't regulate Google because Google's business is predicated on free speech. That is what they're selling- their opinion of what is relevant. The recent search king lawsuit hammered that point into perspective.
"What are you advocating, a lottery system?"
First of all, I am not advocating. Given the high economic impact of limiting a scarce resource, I am posing the question. Will government regulation be applied to this area?
I am not too sure you are right about the free speech defense. That is the first line of defense that the spammers want to use and no one developing legislation is deferred by that.
Remember Search Engines are visiting everyones sites to gather information. Few if any of us explicitly gave Google permission. Do they have any opt-out mechanism other than my needing to include don't spider code in all my pages?
They are spidering information that is logically covered by both the privacy and copyright statues. We suffer them doing this because we expect the data collection will benefit us. What happens if it just benefits a few?
There are dozens of ways to make the top 10 results different each time. The least most rescently visited pages could be bubbled to the top. Of the top 10 in a SE getting paid for the listing, 3 or 4 could be set aside for unpaid listings. Ten is not fixed in stone, perhaps the top 10 paid are list before the top 10 unpaid. Or even side by side.
|They are spidering information that is logically covered by both the privacy and copyright statues. We suffer them doing this because we expect the data collection will benefit us. What happens if it just benefits a few? |
I agree, Cyril. While they were essentially "ad free" (i.e., non-commercial) the old argument that they were using our content really never held sway with me. But adwords has changed their position. They are, in fact, using an aggregate of various publishers' content to sell the click or impression.
|I am not too sure you are right about the free speech defense. |
It has nothing to do with me being right. Google's attorneys were right in a court of law. A judge agreed with their contention that they were excercising free speech.
|There are dozens of ways to make the top 10 results different each time. |
For any given search there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of web sites that are relevant- the majority will always be left out. See my previous two comments.
|The least most rescently visited pages could be bubbled to the top. |
Ah, not relevance, but bring traffic to the neediest sites. I understand that you are just throwing out suggestions, but I think you will ultimately have to return to Relevance as a measure of what should be shown.
|perhaps the top 10 paid are list before the top 10 unpaid. Or even side by side. |
As I mentioned twice already, paid and unpaid are being served side by side.
|They are spidering information that is logically covered by both the privacy and copyright statues.(sic) |
What statutes are you referring to?
It's a little disingenuous to put a web site out on the World Wide Web for public consumption and claim that your privacy is being intruded upon when you haven't taken the time to "draw the curtains" on your site, so to speak, by using robots.txt and robots meta tags- the de facto method for ensuring your privacy on the World Wide Web.
|the old argument that they were using our content |
I dunno. They aren't so much "using" our content as they are "commenting" on our content- and it is the opinions formed about our content that they are using, not the content itself.
Again, it's not like we can't opt out of the process.
These discussions always make me wish I were on a mountain in Tibet, chewing Rhodiola leaves, or that the last king were strangled with the guts of the last priest.
I have a bunch of questions before I even get close to discussing whether, "the government should regulate Google".
1. Do search engines need to be regulated? What, apart for someone's desire to be profitable on the web, necessitates regulation? Whose needs are being served? How are they being served?
2. Why should the government be tasked with the job? Indeed, why give the government an opportunity to foul up on such a grand scale The government is notorious for its lack of technical expertise. Should we allow people like Orrin Hatch to sit on the regulatory commission?
3. Which government? It's a world wide web and we don't currently have a world wide government although there are a bunch of Bonapartes and Caesar wannabes out there.
4. Is it technically possible? I'm always amused when someone proposes a technical solution to a problem that may or may not exist, without a clue regarding the technical ramifications. "Bubble least visited pages to the top"? Huh? Sure, devote huge amounts of time and computer resources to "equal opportunity exposure". We can use that same logic and apply it to billboards, the phonebook, TV ads and newspapers. Why bother with pesky details like relevance, much "nicer" if we all get the same shot at the top huh?
5. How would the engines be regulated? Since we're denying them the right to choose based upon their own algos or decisions, who gets to make those decisions? The fictional world wide government?
Search engine socialism just doesn't sound like a good plan to me. Governments the world over have trouble regulating themselves, let alone their constituents and they typically fail at any endeavor in which profit is involved unless it means they can tax someone to take that person's profit.
Does anyone really want to hand the government any power to regulate search engines? I can think of a few countries in which governments "regulate" the internet and what is available in the search engines and the only people that seem to like it like that are the government honchos...
[edited by: digitalghost at 8:50 pm (utc) on July 29, 2003]
>Should the Government Regulate Google
They already do, Google are subject to the same country specific laws as everybody else. For example take the UK, ads for prescription medicines are not allowed, Google complies. I'm sure they and all the other SE's make those "comprimises" all the time, no company is immune from the law.
>With Telemarketing and Spam controlled does the government then turn its eye on Google?
With respect I think you are missing the point. Govt [worldwide] has reacted to those issues because people don't like them, the fact that they are push stratagies compounds the fact. If people dislike an SE they will go somewhere else, before Govt even starts to think about regulation the problem has already been solved.
With respect I think you are missing the point. Govt [worldwide] has reacted to those issues because people don't like them,
With respect, it is YOU who are missing the point. gov't does not regulate anything because "people", (whoever that is), don't like something. Some people don't like something everyday.
The ONLY reason a Gov't is supposed to regulate anything is to protect the public. In business, things that attempt to thwart free enterprise or stifle competition are regulated because it denies choices and prices to the consumer.
If one entity becomes powerful enough in a market to keep a competitor from offering better, or cheaper products to the consumer, (such as Overture not allowing you to use adwords if you use Overture ads, or if Google's opinion is that MSN is not relevant to a search and manually adjusts their system to make it difficult for the public to find their site on the worlds largest search engine), it may need Gov't regulation to protect the public.
Without regulation, Microsoft is free to eliminate anyone who may be able to offer a better product by putting undue influence on their vendors to NOT do business with their competitors.
When Overture, Yahoo, Google, MSN or any other company, use thier power with malicious intent for the purpose of harming or stopping free trade, regulation is needed or it is the consumer that loses. Protection of the public is the purpose of Gov't regulation, not reacting when people don't like something.
>With respect, it is YOU who are missing the point.
No, no its YOU! j/k
In my heart I believe the Internet is different, the shear scale and number of users forces us to look at things in a different way. Although made up of individuals it acts like a giant opinion poll but instead of sampling small numbers we get an almost real time feedback from the entire commuinity. I trust those people to make the right decisions for themselves.
They have said no to UCE, they have said no to AltaVista, when/if they say no to Google [etc]regulation won't be needed, the commuinity will have already dealt with the issue.
5. How would the engines be regulated? Since we're denying them the right to choose based upon their own algos or decisions, who gets to make those decisions? The fictional world wide government? <<
exactly! all a searchengine REALLY DOES (bottom line)is order their SERPS and show them to the public.
Take away that and you might as well call
the SE --GOVT. com---
yea, i really trust Their results!
"How would the engines be regulated? Since we're denying them the right to choose based upon their own algos or decisions"
I think you need to first deal with the "should" before you can deal with the how.
Much of the "should" question comes about because SEs (and not just Google) have so large an economic impact on Internet commerce. In the US our constitution specifically grants the federal government thru something generally called the "interstate commerce clause" the duty to regulate commerce.
The whole federal governments reason for limiting "monopolies" rests on this clause as do the government's regulations of the phone, radio and tv industries.
So I don't think this is a moot question. Search Engines in some peoples minds are very similiar to public utilities. Private and public companies run public utilities in the US and they run them for profit and have shareholders. The oil and natural gas industries are mostly private companies, run for profit and regulated.
The SE industry has consolidated and amassed enormous economic power (for good reasons). The should question has begun to revolve around the concept that SEs are 21st century public utilities and as such do they require oversight and regulation?
Some people will say emphatically yes or no and have their reason. But one of the big three SEs is Microsoft that is being regualted as a monopoly, the mood of the country is to regualte email and telemarketing.
What I was originally looking for was for statements that said: Google or (SEs in general) should/should not be regulated because . . .
My own guess is that regulation is several years away but it will happen eventually unless the technology leads us elsewhere.
I think the growth of affiliate networks, legal email marketing and portals will reduce the power of the SEs in the future.
|I think the growth of affiliate networks, legal email marketing and portals will reduce the power of the SEs in the future. |
How? There'll always need to be a starting place, surely? And what do you mean by portal, if not somewhere people head off to for research?
Are you envisaging a future where all our purchasing, surfing and usage trails are so well logged and analysed that we'll have everything customised in our face, all offers will be intuitive and spot on the money. The old 'push' technology rears it's head?
Search engines, like the rest of the internet, is subject to certain regulations. For example, the anti-trust regulators at the Justice Department and FTC may well get involved if Microsoft (or any other big company) tried to buy both Google and Yahoo/Overture. I am sure that the search engines could, if their own ethics and lawyers allowed, do acts that would bring in FTC regulation. Any deceptive practice by a search engine could result in the same action that a deceptive practice by any other company would trigger.
I think that the ethics and lawyers at most major search engines will prevent such from happening.
FTC has sued several spammers who forged their addresses. another interesting case can be found at: [ftc.gov...]
If new regulations are written by the FTC it will have to go through the public notice and comment, just as the telemarketing regulations of the FCC were written after months of public discussion with the FCC. So, if there are regulations we will all have a part in their creation.