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Sens. Herb Kohl and Mike Lee call for Google antitrust probe

12:53 am on Dec 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Sens. Herb Kohl and Mike Lee call for Google antitrust probe
The chairman and top Republican on the Senate antitrust subcommittee have asked regulators to investigate Google Inc.'s search practices, saying they were concerned the company was biasing results to favor its own products.

The senators -- panel Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- sent a letter Monday to the Federal Trade Commission, which already is conducting a broad antitrust investigation into Google's business practices, including search and advertising.

Kohl and Lee questioned Google Chairman Eric Schmidt at a contentious hearing in September. Schmidt's answers, along with testimony from two Google competitors, raised questions that should be explored by regulators, the senators said in their letter to FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz.

"We believe these allegations regarding Google's search engine practices raise important competition issues," wrote Kohl and Lee, whose committee has been conducting its own review of Google. "We are committed to ensuring that consumers benefit from robust competition in online search and that the Internet remains the source of much free-market innovation."
3:01 pm on Dec 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I get all that. I'm not arguing what would make a 'better' google. Just arguing legality with regards to the antitrust investigation. Sure, Google would be just another spam search engine if they only showed their own results. Just not sure hows that's illegal. Interested to see what happens.

In the end, all anti-trust comes down to market power. Just as in all the old Microsoft cases.
What may be legal (albeit not sensible) behavior for a small non-significant search engine, because few care, might not be valid or in the end even "legal" to a company the size of Google.

With the percentage of searches done on Google, they do not have the same leeway as a non-significant, as they impact more people, and each small "favoritism" makes Google billions. Stealing our content for a little new feature like "Google Preview" might look like merely a small user-interface change, but by keeping users on Google (and their advertising) longer, it could make them many millions extra.

The more they favor themselves, the more they become merely another content-scraper we should block out, and the further they get down to some congressional committee forcing control over what Google's search/selection algorithms should look like to be valid.

Just like Microsoft with Windows, Google will eventually come under some level of oversight.

I have seen this before, working for such large "start-up" companies.
When they start, it is wild-west and the company (and their employees) make quick decisions and think that everything goes. But eventually as the size gets big enough, they will have to realize that they have to behave like a grown-up company. Wild-west rules no longer apply.

Google also have some reality checks coming as they are now getting old enough that many of their algorithmic patents will expire soon (in relative terms), making them free for others to use. That is likely one of the reasons that we start seeing so many erratic moves from Google. Moving across other businesses stepping on everyone, total failure to weed out scam sites that even the dumbest person can recognize as bogus, moving their search business towards becoming merely another content-thief (someone that takes our content and gives little or nothing back).

Plus, with Social Networking siphoning off advertising dollars, their search engine business will drop in value. Putting even more pressure on finding other revenue streams.
AdWeek this week had an article on how the advertising industry is having a hard time and expecting a hard 2012 as well. Fewer dollars to spend. Google gets hit multiple times. First by less advertising budgets overall, then by Social Networking competition - advertisers wanting to try "something else". Hence all these business-defeating moves to keep users on Google longer, use our content more and more for their own benefit, ..., ...

Every little such move lets Google keep another slice of the user's dollars. Until it starts becoming too much and people start pushing back.. The discussions of law-suits from other companies, Congressional hearings, and even the fact that we are having this discussion in this forum is a sign they turned the boat a little too far. The course direction became too obvious, and they might have to learn what happens to really large companies when they wield a little too much "unfair" power.

This is no longer Sergey Brin and Larry Page sitting in their dormitory room coding a few algorithms and some home-grown content-scraper bots. It is a multi-national conglomerate, and every action they make is now being viewed as such. Witnessed by both the UK and the US going after their methods and priorities.
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