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FTC To Open Antitrust Investigation Against Google 131

Posted by timothy
from the still-waiting-on-the-congressional-search-engine dept.
itwbennett writes "According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is preparing to serve subpoenas to Google as a first step in a broad antitrust investigation focusing on whether Google search is unfairly driving traffic to its other sites. Representatives of Google and the FTC declined to comment on the report, although an FTC spokesperson did deny that the report came from them."
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FTC To Open Antitrust Investigation Against Google

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  • Stupidity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:46PM (#36547526)

    So can we next have a suit against NBC for unfairly putting commercials for their shows ahead of other networks? I realize that Google has become ubiquitous but there are other search engines. I don't see how it is unreasonable for Google to promote their own brand on their page.

    • Re:Stupidity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:57PM (#36547668)

      I don't see how it is unreasonable for Google to promote their own brand on their page.

      And Microsoft probably didn't see why it was unreasonable to promote their own browser on their operating system. Antitrust legislation is about more than promotion: it prevents you from your dominance in one market to muscle competitors out of a different market. Whether or not Google is actually running afoul of antitrust laws, I don't know, but it's definitely a possibility: you don't think it's possible that so many people are using Google Docs instead of other cloud document editing services because it's right on Google's homepage?

      • Re:Stupidity (Score:4, Informative)

        by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:03PM (#36547728)

        I actually thought the Microsoft thing was ridiculous, too. IE didn't need an anti-trust suit to reduce its marketshare. Anybody could download a different browser and when better browser came out people did.

        • Re:Stupidity (Score:4, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:46PM (#36548330) Homepage Journal

          People forget the MS would change the underlying layer to give there browser an advantage. THAT was the real problem.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            That was not the problem identified by the EU.

            Further, forcing a browser selection screen does NOTHING to change this problem! Nor would forcibly unbundling IE.

          • by Anonymus (2267354)

            Additionally, they used their OS market dominance to force computer distributors not to pre-install other browsers.

            They still do the same thing to try to stop vendors from selling computers without Windows pre-installed, which I find far worse. I have no idea why they haven't been stopped from doing that.

        • That's because you never understood that clueless (=most) people use the browser that's bundled with the OS on their PC. Microsoft knew it, which is why they strong-armed OEMs into keeping alternative browsers off the desktop. Out of sight, out of mind.
          • Not only did MS strong arm OEM's to keep alternative browsers off the desktop but the also strong armed them to keep alternative OS's such as Linux from being available.

            How many of us would have bought a business server with *nix and Apache installed instead of Windows and IIS? All of that was part of using their monopoly to kill any competition.

        • . IE didn't need an anti-trust suit to reduce its marketshare.

          IE was a blood sacrifice to avoid getting broken into two companies, one for Windows, one for Office.

      • by esocid (946821)

        And Microsoft probably didn't see why it was unreasonable to promote their own browser on their operating system. Antitrust legislation is about more than promotion: it prevents you from your dominance in one market to muscle competitors out of a different market. Whether or not Google is actually running afoul of antitrust laws, I don't know, but it's definitely a possibility: you don't think it's possible that so many people are using Google Docs instead of other cloud document editing services because it's right on Google's homepage?

        You have a choice of what search engine to use. Theirs happens to be the best. How else would you propose that Google promote their products? Hide them until a person stumbles upon them? Actually, that's how I found fastflip, but the point remains, why should Google have to white-wash their page when Bing, Yahoo, and whatever else is out there, do the exact same thing.

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        That's completely different.

        Microsoft promoted their inferior browser, which served solely to lock users and especially corporations into Microsoft, to the detriment of the rest of the world. Google is pushing their services along with everyone else's which embracing either standardized technology and/or perpetually free patented, technology - again, for the better of everyone.

    • by SashaMan (263632)

      According to this logic, Microsoft didn't commit any antitrust violations in the late 90s either.

      The thing about antitrust law is that it's fine to grow to have a dominant position (even a monopoly), but you aren't allowed to leverage that position to unfairly compete in other areas. Google has a dominant position in search, but they shouldn't be allowed to leverage that position to unfairly compete in other areas.

      That said, all the complaints I've seen against Google so far for "unfair promotion" have been

      • by decora (1710862)

        dude.

        you realize that blogspot blogs are not the best blogs, right? and that they pop up top 10 for a very specific reason, right?

        • by geekoid (135745)

          They are the most popular.
          Best is subjective.

        • by dudpixel (1429789)

          dude.

          you realize that blogspot blogs are not the best blogs, right? and that they pop up top 10 for a very specific reason, right?

          that seems like a generalization.

          sure, most professionals apparently choose wordpress, though I see no reason why someone could not create more relevant content on blogspot.

          Google search is about relevance, so "best blogs" to Google search may well be different to "best blogs" according to you.

          Of course, you could be correct too, but we cant deduce that just because of search placings alone.

          • i have an extremely strong gut feeling. i.e. i have a blogger blog. im a shitty writer, basically an unprofessional hack. and yet, my shit is often in the top 10, above what experienced professional journalists do. it makes no goddamn sense.

            i also recall hearing somewhere a google employee describing this problem.

      • by mpgalvin (207975)

        >> I trust Google specifically because I know it's in their economic best interest to give me the best results and to weed out these crappy sites.

        I don't anymore. They've apparently decided it is in their best interests to make it appear as though their other properties and endeavors are the best results.
        See the trailing-comma test, it still works - most notably for stock symbol queries.

        And to answer your second point : Tripadvisor's complaint against Google was completely legitimate. They were bein

    • Ben Edelman has done a truly exceptional job documenting the anti-trust issues involving Google's advertising.

      NBC is not a monopoly, Google is. Google makes Microsoft's old monopoly look like a walk in the park. Google not only has the most used search engine but controls or has a majority chunk of the online advertising market flow through it (at least in the US, I'm sure there are exceptions on a country by country basis.) Additionally they now have what is likely to be come the #1 mobile phone operati
    • by Desirsar (666014)

      The truly stupid part is that for anyone to complain about this, they have to type google.com into their browser to begin with. If you want to use another search engine, they still exist, GO TO THEM. If you use Google anyway, and search for a competing service to Google's, such as news, mail, maps, or whatever else, Google putting their own matching service at the top of the results makes it easier to ignore! The only person who could possibly be complaining is a monkey who automatically clicks on the

  • So Google pushing their own services to voluntary users of it's free service warrants an anti-trust investigation, but for some reason net neutrality isn't taken seriously by hardly anyone in washington?

    What a joke.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Google violated Clayton to get the dominant market position they have in the online ad space, they are now being accused of bumping their ads for their own products ahead of buyers of ad space. If that's the case, then they're definitely in violation, whereas with net neutrality there isn't yet any evidence that there has been an antitrust violation that would trigger any antitrust investigations.

      • That's a pretty bold statement to make without presenting any evidence. How is it that you are so sure of their guilt while the FTC is just starting to look for evidence? What insider information do you have?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          It's not a bold statement to make, you can't buy out your next largest competitor to create a concern which makes up the vast majority of an industry. Hence, why I pointed out the Clayton Antitrust Act. It's not really a question of whether or not it's a violation, it's a question of why it is that nobody bothered to prosecute it.

          The only thing I can think of is that the DoJ under Bush wasn't particularly into antitrust enforcement.

    • So Google pushing their own services to voluntary users of it's free service warrants an anti-trust investigation, but for some reason net neutrality isn't taken seriously by hardly anyone in washington?

      The net neutrality rules that the FCC adopted were the results of a process that started with an investigation, the FTC action that is reported to be imminent (but which has not actually occurred) with regard to Google is starting an investigation. The former is obviously more serious than the latter, so I d

  • by callit (1900158) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @05:58PM (#36547682)
    yep. keep rubberstamping deals like nbc-comcast and the soon to be att-t-mobile. Ignore the consistent anti-consumer policies of most ISPs and cable operators... and waste time on a company supporting its own business model in a way that barely affects consumers, but may impact other companies? Why is the government so anti-consumer and pro-corporation right now? Just how much money does it take to buy a senator anyway?
    • Depends on the industry and how much you want them to do. just vote yes or no on a certain piece of legislation? a few thousand to hundred thousand. To represent your interests over the majority of people? a few million. All per year by the way. *sarcasm* they have to earn a living too *sarcasm*

    • by Dutchmaan (442553)
      Our government is nothing more than a proxy for large corporations to use to "compete" Google is gaining strength fast, and those companies that have deep connections in DC are likely the ones who are ultimately pulling the levers. I find it interesting though, that from my perspective, conservatives seem to be very anti-Google and pro-MS. Not sure why, nor do I know if it's even true.. just seems that way to me. But by and large the media companies and communication companies seem to be very strong these
      • Because Google symbolizes anti-establishment with its focus on open-source and "do no evil". In other words if the government went to them to make a deal to spy on Americans like they did with AT&T, Google would say no. And that angers conservatives.
    • by izomiac (815208)

      Just how much money does it take to buy a senator anyway?

      With rampant favoritism toward lobbyists and campaign contributors such a figure might be useful to know. For example, people with like beliefs and similar needs (e.g. a geographic region) might band together and produce an adequate amount to buy a legislator to represent their interests. Hopefully the 'donations' to the cause would be tax deductible...

      Obviously, I jest, but this might actually be a good idea. Raise senator/representative salaries to fair market value and make the taxes that go to sai

    • Er, google has never manipulated their search ranking to favor themselves or someone in particular. If, so they would be under serious trouble!
      • by The Moof (859402)
        This is purely anecdotal, but I've seen pages rise and fall in rankings simply by including Google Analytics on a site. I had a site ranking normally, someone goofed and removed the analytics code, and the pages mysteriously dropped off in rankings. The omission was caught, put back in, and the pages mysteriously returned to their previous ranking.
    • I don't know what you are searching for... perhaps trying to SEO your own bog against others.. but I rarely see a blogspot blog in my search results...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Monopolies occur when people don't have a choice. Being better at something than everyone else and using the that to leverage your other products doesn't count as a monopoly. People can still chose to use Yahoo or Bing or anything else. I don't see how consumer's are being forced into anything.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      You can only have a true monopoly with government backing. Otherwise a leaner meaner competitor can always come along and take your market share.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since when did we decide integration of services was a bad thing?

    Microsoft doesn't push traffic to Bing through use of their Windows OS and IE browser?

    Apple doesn't push traffic to their music and app stores through their iPhone and iPods which are LOCKED to using iTunes?

  • I like google. I use at least one of their products on a daily basis, and most of their products are superior than their competition's. Google is incredibly innovative and most of what they have done has been beneficial. They have put a lot of hard work getting to where they are today, which I have a great deal of respect for. They are also a public corporation, and the ultimate objective of a public corporation is to make money and remain competitive to continue remaining profitable. Just because a co
    • by geekoid (135745)

      " and the ultimate objective of a public corporation is to make money"

      wrong. Hell, even Ayn Rand new that was an incorrect statement.

      • OK, so enlighten us. What is the ultimate objective of a corporation?
        • What is the ultimate objective of a corporation?

          What is the ultimate objective of a person? Just as the latter varies from person to person, the former varies from corporation to corporation. Its true that with corporations -- particularly widely held and/or publicly traded ones -- the shared interests of their stockholders weighted according to the ratio in which they hold voting rights (which is what, approximately, a corporation exists to serve) tends to heavily favor financial returns as the dominant go

    • by macshit (157376) <[gro.ung] [ta] [selim]> on Friday June 24, 2011 @12:36AM (#36551428) Homepage

      Er, sure, but be much, much, more leery of Google's enemies -- you know, the ones that are lobbying for investigations like this.

      Because the alternative to Google isn't (in the short term) some scrappy and lovable FOSS underdogs, it's vast evil entities like Microsoft and Facebook.

      Addendum: Be very scared.

  • by Demerara (256642) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @06:53PM (#36548420) Homepage

    The agency's five-member panel of commissioners is preparing to send its formal demands for information to Google within days, these people said

    Can't they simply google the information?

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Thursday June 23, 2011 @07:39PM (#36548976)

    No one gives a shit about the media conglomerates and the ISP Monopolies that threaten the Internet economy, but google tailoring search to their end user's habits to make the searches more reliant is some how a bad thing for the market?

  • Like AT&T received? Or just a symbolic handslap like Microsoft got?

  • It seems unlikely that any ruling that Google must not put something on their website is going to survive appeal on first amendment grounds.
  • Given how clueless American legislators have proven themselves to be about online business in the past (e.g., the failed attempts to apply state sales taxes to Amazon which resulted in Amazon dropping their affiliates in those states - ooops, no sales = no sales tax!), is it really any surprise that they're now going after the big G?
  • I thought congress had already chopped the FTC balls.
  • by TheSync (5291) on Friday June 24, 2011 @03:43AM (#36552274) Journal

    Keep government out of my Google!

  • Reading through comments it seems that many people around here need to pick up a history book and read up on why we have anti-trust laws, and what was happening to society to get them implemented.

    Because when there aren't any, and concentration of power kills all competition, your society starts to literally rot until it collapses on itself due to massive inefficiency issues and parasitic nature of trusts in relation to society that they exist in, feeding off the society until it collapses, and takes them w

  • And have more experience in playing the system? Are Google too naive in this area?
  • How much it cost Steve Ballmer to wheedle and cajole Eric Holder's (so-called) Justice Department into ending the antitrust investigation against Microsoft a few months ago, and start one up on Google?

    It must have been stimulusnomical!

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