FTC Now Likely To Admit That Google Does Not, In Fact, Violate Antitrust

from the could-have-done-that-early-on-and-saved-a-lot-of-effort dept

A few months ago, there were rumors that the FTC was ready to go after Google with antitrust charges, though we couldn't figure out how this made sense. At first the story was that it was abusing its search position, but there was little evidence to support it. Then there was talk of using its new ownership of Motorola to go after Google for abusing standards essential patents. But... that seemed like a really tangential way to attack Google. And, as more and more details came out, it increasingly looked like this was an effort by the FTC's chair, Jon Liebowitz, to cement a legacy. Along those lines, there were rumors that Google wasn't willing to just cave to demands for a settlement. The latest is that the FTC is likely to come out next week and say that there's no evidence that Google violated antitrust rules with favoring its own sites in search. The Justice Department could conceivably still go after Google, but it's unclear if there's real appetite there. As the report notes, Europe may be a different story. As we saw with the Microsoft antitrust effort, Europe defines "monopoly power" over markets much more loosely than the US does -- and often seems to use antitrust enforcement to punish successful US companies, rather than look at whether there's actual consumer harm. So, in that venue, it wouldn't be surprising to see Google pressured into a settlement of some sort.


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  1.  
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    Wally (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:15pm

    Well I'm at least glad Google got through this. The FTC probably got confused (not too uncommon) about how Google's promotional ads work for small local businesses in your area. There is an advertising space that, when your search is relevant enough, will put the ad up for a local business.

    Also, for those who don't know, Google's web crawler searches on referential terms. This means that the links to a single sight that get referred to the most end up at the top of the list.

     

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  2.  
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    MrWilson, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:36pm

    Re:

    The FTC officials probably got confused about whether or not they wanted to accept the positions that Microsoft was offering them once they retired if they pursued Google...

    FTFY

     

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  3.  
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    MrWilson, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:42pm

    [insert bob's obligatory Big Search comment here]

     

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  4.  
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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:12pm

    Immediate consumer harm vs systemic risk

    One thing to keep in mind is that good definitions of "consumer harm" include long term consequences and systemic risk, not just immediate effects. That's why predatory pricing is illegal after all - the short term effects for consumers are positive (hey, cheap stuff!), but the longer term ones are harmful (driving the competition out of business in order to later obtain monopoly rents)

    There's a lot of risk to be found in outsourcing key parts of your infrastructure to a foreign corporation. The unfortunate part is most of this isn't addressed in the law, so other laws (like anti-trust) get twisted to suit :P

     

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  5.  
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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    I have an anti-trust of the FTC... now.

     

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  6.  
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    Wally (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Yikes...I don't think bribery is the case here though. A lot of the issue was predatory harm to their competitors. Google's advertising service is much cleaner than say AdClick or other services that use bots to distribute their advertisements. Google's is simply showing you where to find this, that, or the other thing...I haven't been on Bing in a while and I typically use AdBlock Plus with FireFox...so it's difficult for me to judge. All I know is that Google's as space isn't blocked which means it's clean and in-house.

    Also, as I've stated before, Google's search is a referential and usually basis relevancy on how many other website refer to a single page. Given that you can Google something in reference to a web search on any search engine....it's just widely used.

    Bing, I actually don't like...too flashy and not as clean interface as Google's search engine.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:20pm

    out_of_the_crack and bob are wiping.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:29pm

    I bet Jon (The Statist) Liebowitz does go after Google after the recent announcement of all the cash Google has off shored to Bermuda.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:47pm

    defendinggoogle247.com

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:49pm

    Re:

    which of course also equals: applehater.com

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 1:20am

    Re:

    obamaisamarxistwhowantstomurderchildren452.org

     

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  12.  
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    Michael, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 4:31am

    Re: Immediate consumer harm vs systemic risk

    When did the FTC start worrying about consumer harm?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 5:12am

    Long story short:

    Microsoft hates Google. Especially now that Google is taking over mobile while Windows can't even get its foot in the door. Redmond and its proxies have been waging a mud-slinging campaign against Google (and Android) for some time now, and complaining to the FTC about Google has been part of that.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 6:48am

    Re:

    But will they ever actually show up? It's a pro-Google piece, so they have to get their shilling in on such an obvious piece of shillbait.

     

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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 7:36am

    It's about choice, not being the first result...

    I think those trying to strike a parallel to the monopoly abuse by Microsoft over bundling its browser are missing a fairly crucial bit of evidence in the bundling. Microsoft bundled IE for free and did not include alternative browsers in its preinstalled OS. Google, by its very nature wouldn't exist if it didn't include search results for competing services... You could say its main function in search is to offer as many alternatives as possible.

    The problem is when you list results, a list, by definition, will contain a first result. Otherwise it wouldn't be a very useful list... You would have to code the page to just throw words and links at the searcher... it wouldn't be a very popular search engine.

    And this is where the fight is. To be top of the search results. Somehow, competing vertical search engines feel that it is their privileged entitlement to be top of the list of results. They also think that Google's own algorithm should be weighted towards their own site, despite the fact the algorithm is the core of Google's search and not a democratic voting process or a contract.

    It's like saying Microsoft shouldn't just offer alternative browsers, it should cripple it's own browser and run Firefox when you click on the IE icon.

    Finally it does come down to convenience and effect on the user. IE was not an easy thing to disable or uninstall, it was made a core part of the OS. Google search on the other hand can be "uninstalled" as fast as it can take you to type in another URL. You are free to click on an advertisement, the Google service, the top result or a result further down the page on Google's "platform".

    I'd much more prefer to see the FTC take on Microsoft on the bundling of its OS with hardware, it's skulduggery over secure boot and it's patent trolling over Linux.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 7:46am

    Re: It's about choice, not being the first result...

    "...it should cripple it's own browser and run Firefox when you click on the IE icon."

    They're almost there. All they are missing is bundling Firefox with Windows and change the shortcuts.

     

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  17.  
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    Wally (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re:

    I wish I could as easily and blatantly bash the watchdogs that bark and ignore everything else I write in any of my comment the moment they see the word "Apple". It's amazing, yet not surprising, Mike that they do this.

    I figure it's either for attention or that their bias was bruised beyond belief.

     

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  18.  
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    Wally (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: It's about choice, not being the first result...

    Something tells me you've used Wimdows 8

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    Not sure why the Justice Dept looks at Google through a microscope hoping to find anti trust violations when there are so many blatantly obvious violations elsewhere. Are these considered too big to prosecute? This is getting quite ridiculous and might lead a person to become cynical.

     

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  20.  
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    MrWilson, Dec 17th, 2012 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's not called "bribery" according to its common practice in broad daylight and lack of conflict of interest inquiries. It's just a revolving door between regulators and the companies they regulate and amounts to regulatory capture that the DOJ is apparently perfectly fine with. It's essentially the same thing as bribery, but they just don't call it that, much less bat an eye at it.

     

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