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EU Antitrust Chief: Google "Diverting Traffic" & Will Be Forced To Change 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the shape-up dept.
Dupple writes "It looks like the EU is coming close to a decision regarding its investigation of Google. While saying he's 'still investigating,' the head of the European Union's antitrust regulatory body has said that he's convinced Google is 'diverting traffic' and that it will be forced to change its results. From the article: 'Despite the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's move earlier this month to let off Google with a slap on the wrist -- albeit, a change to its business practices, a move that financially wouldn't dent Google in the short term but something any company would seek to avoid -- the European Commission is looking to take a somewhat different approach: take its time, and then hit the company hard.'"
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EU Antitrust Chief: Google "Diverting Traffic" & Will Be Forced To Change

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @03:15AM (#42555575)

    What the hell do they mean by "diverting traffic", and why would it not be allowed?

    What, exactly, does Google have a monopoly of, and how are they abusing monopoly power in any way?

    TFA suggests they have a monopoly on "search" which is nonsensical, since there are many competitors and no barrier to entry, and they give the "product" away for free, so it would hard to claim any monopoly pricing power is even being used or existing.

    A more sensible allegation would be that they have some kind of monopoly on advertising or user data collection, since that at least they charge for, except, that as far as I can tell, they don't have that either.

    So, all in all, it looks like either a blatant cash grab by the EU, or a bullshit legal attack funded by the likes of Microsoft.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @03:21AM (#42555605)

    So exactly what every search engine has done since the dawn of time.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday January 11, 2013 @03:23AM (#42555617)

    And The EU has no authority over what google.com does, since its not based in the EU
    They have some jurisdiction over the european subsidiaries like google.fr b ut don't most searches go through google.com anyway? Except for those people who want to use a foreign language, and a lot of eurpeans are fluent in english anyway.

  • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday January 11, 2013 @03:33AM (#42555655) Homepage

    The EU apparently don't need the internet.

    Yes, because the Internet doesn't exist without Google... </sarcasm>

  • by aaron552 (1621603) on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:20AM (#42555813) Homepage

    IIRC, the problem is that Google's own services appear to be favoured in search rankings over competitors. I would think that this is primarily be because they're significantly more popular than the competitors, though, and not due to any bias on the part of Google.

    A search for "email" on Google returns Hotmail as the first result and "web browser" gives an ad for IE, the wikipedia page for "web browser", Opera, and Firefox before Chrome appears. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly shady on there based on my rather unscientific test.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:26AM (#42555839)

    So exactly what every search engine has done since the dawn of time.

    Doesn't mean that it is legal.
    I don't think this would have been a problem if it would have been clear to the end user that the top results is payed for rather than being "most relevant" to their search.

    What if I was running a "free" advertise funded dating service and claimed that all matches was made by an algorithm that matched peoples interests. Then I would run another service where people could pay to the matched with a person of their choice in the database. Those using the first service would assume that the match is done from interests and what I would be doing would be considered fraud.

  • Occam's Razor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:27AM (#42555843)

    Alternatively, those 'scam' sites may do what they do- a great deal of search engine optimization. It was merely a niche market that isn't re-spidered and indexed very often and it's turn came up at the first of the year, no doubt along with many other niche search terms. The index was updated and tada! now all those old, reputable, and not very SEO savvy businesses get to go for a swim in the search results while the modernized middlemen rise to the top.

  • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:29AM (#42555849)

    the only difference will be that because google is a company that slashdotters like (google) as opposed to one they don't (ms), they will argue against the EU in this case. not because of principle, mind you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:39AM (#42555877)

    I have 8 (!) Internet access providers where I live, all of whom provide cheap uncapped bandwidth.

    Not one of my friends in the US has more than 3 and none of the ones I talk to on a regular basis has access to cheap uncapped bandwidth.

    I can buy any mobile handset and use with any carrier. I buy a "Samsung" or a "Nokia" not a "T-mobile" handset.

    The reason we have this freedom is because we take free markets a bit more seriously than you colonials do and we actually enforce the freedom of the market, something a free market is incapable of doing itself (although it does a number of other things very well).

    Free markets are not free by virtue of design. They are kept free by regulation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:54AM (#42555915)

    Welcome to the filter bubble anyway. It shows Hotmail first for YOU. It actually shows Gmail first for me.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday January 11, 2013 @06:09AM (#42556163) Journal
    I've been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for about 18 months. If it can't find what I need, I try Google. In the last year, Google has only once found something that DDG didn't find. If Google decided to pull out of the EU, I think it would hurt them a lot more than it would hurt us...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @06:34AM (#42556239)

    I don't think this would have been a problem if it would have been clear to the end user that the top results is payed for rather than being "most relevant" to their search.

    You mean if they'd put a different coloured background under the sponsored results and adding the text "Ads for [foo]"?

  • by louic (1841824) on Friday January 11, 2013 @07:13AM (#42556377)
    If I go to Burger King, should I complain that they don't have a Big Mac on the menu? When I go to Google, I go there because I WANT a Google Maps result!
  • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday January 11, 2013 @08:32AM (#42556727) Homepage

    So the lesson here is that if you build a business, develop something that's really awesome and becomes the go-to choice for nearly everyone on the planet, your reward is to be considered a monopoly and regulated as a utility?

    Your reward is that you have a business that is worth billions. There is a very minor penalty that you have to adhere to slightly stricter regulations as a result. Its good for the consumer for the dominant company to have to work at staying dominant rather than sit back and stagnate since no one can compete.

    There are always penalties associated with being successful, but the success generally outweighs the penalties. Or are you going to complain that successful high-profit companies shouldn't have to pay more tax than low-profit businesses because that would be a penalty on their success?

  • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:50AM (#42557425) Homepage

    But what Google is doing is no different than what other search engines are doing. If I search for "Starbucks" on Bing, I get the web results I'd expect. I also get a Bing Map for Starbucks in the area. I also get Bing News results for articles about Starbucks.

    Yes, and the point of antitrust legislation is that if you get big enough to unfairly distort markets then you have to play by different rules to ensure you don't distort the markets. Google is far more dominant than Bing, so they get hit with the antitrust stick for their troubles. Guess what? Apple gets away with stuff MS could only dream of because they aren't the dominant player.

  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:05AM (#42557589)

    If I wanted to search Google Maps, I'd go to Google Maps, but for the generalised search function I want relevant results from *anywhere*.

    Fine, but when you go to GOOGLE and search for MAPS...don't piss and moan when the first result that comes up is Google Maps. Not only are they the most popular mapping service by a mile, but it is owned and promoted by GOOGLE...the search engine you are using at the time. Of course Google is going to put a little map in your results and say "Hey, we've got this map service...".

    Don't be surprised when you have to scroll a bit down to find Mapquest or other 4th- or 5th-ranked map providers: if you want a different, less-popular map provider, search by name. Better yet, stop using Google as your address bar like my grandmother, and type the address in the correct place at the top of the browser window.

  • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:13AM (#42557695) Homepage

    Fine, but when you go to GOOGLE and search for MAPS...don't piss and moan when the first result that comes up is Google Maps. Not only are they the most popular mapping service by a mile, but it is owned and promoted by GOOGLE...the search engine you are using at the time. Of course Google is going to put a little map in your results and say "Hey, we've got this map service...".

    When you go to WINDOWS and open the BROWSER...don't piss and moan when it starts IE. Not only is it the most popular web browser by a mile, but it is owned and promoted by MICROSOFT...the operating system you are using at the time.

  • by miltonw (892065) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:20PM (#42559301)

    A response from the commissioner is understood to be imminent, after Almunia's office told Google in mid-December that it must convince its rivals that it competes fairly in the web search market or else it could - within months - face sanctions for alleged "abuse of dominance".

    I found this statement very strange. Especially in light of the principle of "innocent until proven guilty". Apparently, the EU doesn't have to prove Google broke the law. Even stranger, the EU is not asking Google to prove that they didn't break the law.

    No, it seems to be much worse. Google must "convince its rivals that it competes fairly" or face sanctions that its rivals desperately want.

    It just boggles the mind.

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