Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.198.221.13

Forum Moderators: goodroi

Message Too Old, No Replies

2012 FTC Antitrust Probe Into Google: Documents Exposed Reveal "real harm to consumers and to innovation"

     
10:09 pm on Mar 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

Administrator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

joined:May 9, 2000
posts:24716
votes: 612


This exposure of the FTC's documents to the WSJ shows that some key staff at the FTC were really concerned over Google's search.

Key staff of the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google Inc. used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competitors, a far harsher analysis of Google’s business than was previously known.

The staff report from the agency’s bureau of competition, which hasn’t before been disclosed, recommended the commission bring a lawsuit challenging three separate Google practices, a move that would have triggered one of the highest-profile antitrust cases since the Justice Department sued Microsoft Corp. in the 1990s.2012 FTC Antitrust Probe Into Google: Documents Exposed Reveal "real harm to consumers and to innovation" [wsj.com]
“This document appears to show that the FTC had direct evidence from Google of intentional search bias,” said Luther Lowe, the vice president of public policy for Yelp.

The Wall Street Journal viewed portions of the document after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The FTC declined to release the undisclosed pages and asked the Journal to return the document, which it declined to do.
11:52 pm on Mar 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


On the most important issue, that of Google’s prized search engine, the FTC report said Google altered it to benefit its own services at the expense of rivals. The report said Google “adopted a strategy of demoting, or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories.”


Validation is bittersweet, always thought, not sure I feel any better knowing.
12:26 am on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


Wow, what a read, ALL of google's "do know evil" is out the window.

page 132, foot note 154 talks about google removing competitors from the top 10 with a systematic 8 - 20 percent drop, then when feedback showed that users did not like the new results instead of fixing the serps google CHANGED THE RATERS' CRITEREA...
2:38 am on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 24, 2012
posts:648
votes: 2


Edited, since it was mostly what @Shepherd said.

Here's the screenshot of that section: [i.imgur.com...]
4:03 am on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Full Member

5+ Year Member

joined:May 30, 2009
posts:233
votes: 7


asked the Journal to return the document, which it declined to do.


Good on the WSJ.

The WSJ discloses interesting additional details from the report. Among them, Google estimated its own share of the US market (in 2012) at between 69 and 84 percent. By comparison, comScore reported that it was 65 percent.
[searchengineland.com...]

I don't subscribe to the WSJ but the snippet above from the report that Search Engine Land quoted in their article speaks volumes. G knew they had a monopoly all along. Shame on the FTC for ignoring that and allowing so many companies and small businesses to be manipulated out of the SERP's.

(If anyone has a link to the full report, it would be great if you could share it)
10:28 am on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 2, 2014
posts:558
votes: 249


Most webmasters, even those with even a limited degree of intelligence, understand how harmful Google is to consumers and other businesses. No document is needed to validate that for me. If anything, I feel the document supports the theory that the government is in cahoots with Google.

Thanks to the FTC's inaction, the problem is only getting worse IMO. If the FTC can't do it's job, maybe it's time to use our tax dollars in s better way.
11:59 am on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 21, 1999
posts:38079
votes: 28


US government investigators wanted to sue Google

[irishtimes.com...]

FTC’s competition bureau argued that the owner of the world’s leading Internet search engine illegally took information from rival websites to improve its own search results and placed restrictions on websites and advertisers.
12:37 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 12, 2014
posts:384
votes: 65


Everyone can take their tinfoil hats off now!
2:06 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


FTC’s competition bureau argued that the owner of the world’s leading Internet search engine illegally took information from rival websites to improve its own search results and placed restrictions on websites and advertisers.


Funny that the issue was google threatened those who complained that they would remove them from the serps, THEN it turns out that the ONLY "concession" google gave with regards to this investigation was that businesses could opt out of google stealing their content AND being listed in the serps. That's some concession, like the school bully saying: "I'm not going to tell you to give me your money or get beat up, you now have the option to opt out of giving me your money and getting beat up".
7:19 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


google has done harm to my business. google intentionally demoted my website in their search engine and intentionally promoted their own (invested in) website. And now their actions have been documented. This however is just business.

The problem is that google has done harm to the average searcher. A reasonable person believes that when they google the internet they are being shown an un-bias list of websites/businesses/answers relating to their query. This has now been shown to not be the case and that google goes to great lengths to make sure that the results are biased in google's favor. This is where google crosses the "it's just business" line.
8:01 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 28, 2001
posts:1380
votes: 0


Google also has a history of taking other action (indirect sometimes) to first grab the data from human edited directories and then devalue those same directories in Google. I think there is a reason Google allowed for the dynamic where directories got spammed into oblivion. Happened to Yahoo, DMOZ and many others. It is extremely important to recognize that practices at Google CAUSED directories to get spammed.
8:50 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 27, 2001
posts:2548
votes: 0



The staff said Google also broke antitrust law by placing restrictions on websites that publish its search results from also working with rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo Inc.

The commission made no mention of this issue in its final report, nor did it secure any commitments from Google to change its policies.

Seems strange that this was not mentioned as it seems pretty anti-competitive.
9:11 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 26, 2013
posts:454
votes: 69


Everyone can take their tinfoil hats off now!

Yes, the conspiracy theorists were right all along. Now the question is why did the plug get pulled on the investigation, against the FTC staff's recommendation? How far up does Google's reach in Washington D.C. go?
9:38 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 24, 2012
posts:648
votes: 2


Now the question is why did the plug get pulled on the investigation, against the FTC staff's recommendation? How far up does Google's reach in Washington D.C. go?


They spend a lot of money lobbying. [opensecrets.org...]

There are companies that spend more, but not in Google's industry sector. If you look narrowly at the "Computers/Internet" space, they spend almost twice as much as anyone else.
9:54 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


But... but... but Mr. Leibowitz addressed the lobbying specifically when announcing that the FTC was not going to go after google:

"My sense is that the lobbying makes the companies feel good and lobbyists feel good," Leibowitz said. "At the end of the day, whether you want to say lobbying had any influence, or canceled itself out because there was lobbying on both sides, if you're going to do what lobbyists want you to do in a regulatory agency, you're not doing your job."


See, there's no way that lobbying had anything to do with it, he said so... well, I gues he did'nt actually say it, he just said that the agency would not be doing their job IF they were only doing what the lobbyists want...
10:02 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:3048
votes: 581


One thing to keep in mind: In the U.S. (the country we're talking about here), Google's organic search rankings are protected by the First Amendment. For example: In Search King, Inc. v. Google Technology, Inc., a federal judge ruled that "Neither Search King nor any other web site has the option of demanding a particular Page Rank, or even whether their web site will be accessible on Google's search engine. In short, Google owes no duty to rank, or refrain from ranking, Search King or any other web site."

One of the accusations against Google is that it demoted or otherwise gave unfair treatment to shopping-comparison sites in its organic SERPs. That may be unfair or even anti-competitive, but it's no different from Fox News claiming to be "Fair & balanced" when it's anything but. My guess: The hotheads in the FTC's Competition Bureau wanted to go after Google, regardless of the First Amendment and the likely outcome, but wiser heads prevailed. Maybe the Competition Bureau folks would have had better luck with the Commissioners if they'd focused on aspects of their complaint where the law was on their side.
10:16 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


Hotheads, wiser heads, I do so enjoy watching how you try to paint ideas when the mountain of evidence is against you.

The FTC's job is to protect American consumers, they dropped the ball here. The consumer believes they are receiving un-biased information from google, the FTC knows this is not the case and they know it is harmful to the consumer yet they failed to act. In fact, they went so far as to try and cover up the information, even after it was out in the public.
10:29 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Full Member

joined:Dec 11, 2013
posts:229
votes: 38


That may be unfair or even anti-competitive, but it's no different from Fox News claiming to be "Fair & balanced" when it's anything but.

Mom: Son, I saw you've just hit your sister with a hammer and she's now unconscious!

Son: Maybe I did, but what's for dinner tonight?
10:46 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:3048
votes: 581


he FTC's job is to protect American consumers, they dropped the ball here. The consumer believes they are receiving un-biased information from google, the FTC knows this is not the case and they know it is harmful to the consumer yet they failed to act.


Organic results aren't "commercial speech," and tney don't have to be unbiased--regardless of whether Google is a monopoly. Again, see the Search King v. Google decision.

The FTC may or may not have a legitimate axe to grind with Google, but not because of organic search results that are protected by the First Amendment.
11:04 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3282
votes: 244


Of course we"ve always known that Google rigs its algorithm to favor particular sites, or types of sites. But now they've admitted that they secretly make manual adjustments to their results for some search terms. In other words, they intentionally deceive the people who use their search engine.
11:18 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 11, 2000
posts:11951
votes: 308


I'm not seeing this particular article mentioned... just came in via SearchCap...

Leaked 2012 FTC Document Called Google A Monopoly, Recommended Litigation
Competition bureau doc one of many Commissioners reviewed before settling.
Greg Sterling on March 19, 2015
[searchengineland.com...]

An "inadvertently disclosed" report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) labels Google a monopoly and appears to directly contradict the decision not to pursue legal action against the company. In early 2013 the FTC formally decided to close its antitrust investigation against Google demanding only modest changes in the company's business practices.

It turns out a vocal contingent inside the FTC wanted stronger action.
11:22 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


I think it's safe to say that google's search results are much more likely to be considered "commercial speech" these days then they were 12+ years ago.

As for being required to be unbiased, I said they are perceived to be unbiased.
11:41 pm on Mar 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Jan 28, 2005
posts:3072
votes: 27


The FTC / Google report while it's still accessible : [graphics.wsj.com...]
1:10 am on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:3048
votes: 581


All I'm seeing are short excerpts from the FTC report. I wonder why the WSJ didn't put the complete 160-page document online? Rupert Murdoch should be able to afford the bandwidth.
2:27 am on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 28, 2001
posts:1380
votes: 0


One thing to keep in mind: In the U.S. (the country we're talking about here), Google's organic search rankings are protected by the First Amendment. For example: In Search King, Inc. v. Google Technology, Inc., a federal judge ruled that "Neither Search King nor any other web site has the option of demanding a particular Page Rank, or even whether their web site will be accessible on Google's search engine. In short, Google owes no duty to rank, or refrain from ranking, Search King or any other web site."

One of the accusations against Google is that it demoted or otherwise gave unfair treatment to shopping-comparison sites in its organic SERPs. That may be unfair or even anti-competitive, but it's no different from Fox News claiming to be "Fair & balanced" when it's anything but. My guess: The hotheads in the FTC's Competition Bureau wanted to go after Google, regardless of the First Amendment and the likely outcome, but wiser heads prevailed. Maybe the Competition Bureau folks would have had better luck with the Commissioners if they'd focused on aspects of their complaint where the law was on their side.


But that is not the case being made before the FCC. This is about a company that dominates the realm of search engaging in behavior to such an extent that they are solidifying their monopoly. It's not like Amazon, Yelp or Trip Advisor will be just fine by appearing in another search engine if Google refuses to display their results.

Do you agree the case can be made that Google's share of search is so big that we can say it is a monopoly?

For example, there are people who say the big banks have a monopoly on banking, but there are at least 5 big ones. There is the case where AT&T was broken up and clearly there is plenty of competition in the telecommunications industry.

Might breaking up Google be better for consumers?

For example, what if companies like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon actually grew faster and gave Google more competition? Wouldn't that mean consumers would have more good choices when searching for Reviews, Travel or Products?
8:10 am on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from GB 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 16, 2005
posts: 2703
votes: 97


The legal question is whether Google abused their monopoly as, unfortunately, a company cannot be broken up just to end a monopoly.

The "search bias" case against Google seems pretty weak: they thought people should find merchant sites directly from Google rather than what amounts to another search site that just collates data from the merchant sites. We already knew that.

The most serious allegation making "exclusive deals", is not properly covered in the linked article. What exactly were they doing? The advertising data and scraping items are serious as well, but Google agreed to change their practices on those.
10:46 am on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 5, 2012
posts:765
votes: 92


I wonder why the WSJ didn't put the complete 160-page document online?


The document is a limited, high value resource. Probably lots juicy stories in there for later.

The real question is why was the FTC trying to cover it up?
11:54 am on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 12, 2014
posts:384
votes: 65


The most telling part of the story, to me, is that this large concentration of engineers has to rely on focus groups to tell them how the public reacts to their manipulation.

And they still call it an algorithm even though it is operated manually?
2:23 pm on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:3048
votes: 581


And they still call it an algorithm even though it is operated manually?


It isn't "operated manually." Focus groups, user testing, etc. provide insights for use in creating and refining the algorithm. (Algorithms are designed to serve people, after all.)

The legal question is whether Google abused their monopoly as, unfortunately, a company cannot be broken up just to end a monopoly.


Exactly. Also, I'd be interested in learning how consumers have been hurt by Google's monopoly and alleged search bias. That sounds pretty far-fetched to me.

It seems to me that, if the FTC wanted to pursue a high-profile case where a victory might benefit consumers, it would be going after Apple--which has become the world's most valuable company by abusing its monopoly on iOS and Mac OS devices--not a company whose main consumer product costs nothing to use and can be abandoned for another search engine at any time. (I suspect the latter fact--Google's inability to lock in users--is a major reason why the FTC Commissioners' common sense prevailed. Memories of the DOJ's expensive and ultimately pointless antitrust case against Microsoft, which was based heavily on the now-debunked belief that Microsoft was suppressing user choice by bundling a browser into the Windows operating system, are still relatively fresh.)
2:33 pm on Mar 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3282
votes: 244


I didn't realize that Webmaster World has so many anti-trust law experts, and that they are better judges of what constitutes a violation than the investigators at the FTC:
2012 FTC Antitrust Probe Into Google: Documents Exposed Reveal "real harm to consumers and to innovation"

Key staff of the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google Inc. used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competitors, a far harsher analysis of Google’s business than was previously known.

The staff report from the agency’s bureau of competition, which hasn’t before been disclosed, recommended the commission bring a lawsuit challenging three separate Google practices, a move that would have triggered one of the highest-profile antitrust cases since the Justice Department sued Microsoft Corp.

But despite the "real harm to consumers and to innovation",
the recommendation to bring a lawsuit wasn't pursued. Instead, there was a whitewash, attempted coverup, and promises from Google to behave better in the future.
This 108 message thread spans 4 pages: 108
 

Join The Conversation

Moderators and Top Contributors

Hot Threads This Week

Featured Threads

Free SEO Tools

Hire Expert Members