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Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
antitrust, monopoly, regulations, uk

Companies:
google



UK Politicians Want To Regulate Google... Because It's Good At What It Does

from the searching-for-a-clue dept

I recognize that there's been a weird backlash against Google in the UK, since Prime Minister David Cameron has been asking questions about why companies like Google aren't starting in the UK. Rather than actually looking into the core issues, it appears that many are simply trying to take Google down a notch instead. The latest, as pointed out by Glyn Moody appears to be a bit of a retread of some older arguments. However, it's being done by British MPs. Yes, they're suddenly calling on the UK government to regulate Google.

Why? Well, as far as I can tell, the argument is that Google is good at what it does, and people like it, so thus it must be punished. I really wish there were more to it than that, but that really does seem to be the heart of it: let's regulate Google because we're jealous that it's successful.

The debate apparently was kicked off by MP Dominic Raab, repeating the old story about Foundem, whose only purpose in life seemed to be to bitch about Google. Foundem, of course, was a tiny search engine that no one heard of that offered little value, and was exactly the kind of website that people hate getting pointed to in search results, because it feels spammy. Google -- quite reasonably -- buried Foundem's results. It wasn't -- as Foundem's execs and Raab now claim -- because Google was "scared" of this competitor and was shutting it out of the market, but because Foundem sucked and people didn't like it.

Yet Raab uses this example of Google better serving its customers, as an excuse to regulate the company:
Mr Raab said that the effect was to suppress Foundem in Google search results. Mr Raab pointed out that the alleged treatment of Foundem would be sufficient to bury and kill off many businesses. He accused Google of deliberately "stacking the deck" against small competitors and called for government policy to address what he called ‘search engine transparency'.

Mr Raab accused the regulators, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading, of complacency. He called on them to take action against companies abusing dominance. "Search engines are the gateways to the Internet, and with a 95% share, Google is in a dominant position"

"If Google does not allow consumers to access potential competitors via its search engine gateway, they will be choked out of the market-place" he said.
First of all, search engines are less and less the gateway to the rest of the internet in an age of social media. Even if Google dominates in search traffic, more and more people are finding out about other sites online from their friends via social media. Second, and more importantly, nowhere does Raab explain why what Google did was bad. He just assumes that it must be bad. However, if Google is suppressing bad results that users don't want, isn't that a good thing? Serving customers better is a good thing, and if Foundem's having trouble getting users, the fault is clearly with Foundem, not Google. And it's pretty weak for politicians to be looking to prop up a failed company, just because another company is good at what it does.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re:

    Not when your service doesn't harm nor lock-in users.

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