by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
antitrust, ftc, jared polis


Jared Polis Tells FTC To Back Off Google Antitrust Investigation

from the waste-of-government-resources dept

Colorado's Jared Polis is likely a familiar Congressman to our readers. He was one of the key voices in Congress against SOPA. He's also been one of the few members of government willing to speak out against all of the problems in the domain seizures that have occurred. Now we learn that his pro-tech stance over government-meddling continues with a strongly worded letter to the Federal Trade Commission over its investigation of Google for antitrust violations.
At a time when the national economy continues to stagnate, it's not clear to me why the FTC should be focusing on a product that consumers seem very happy with, search engines. While Google is surely a big company and an important service in peoples' lives, my constituents also use a variety of competing services, including Amazon.com for shopping, iTunes for music and movies, Facebook for social networking and recommendations, and mobile apps like Yelp for finding local businesses. Competition is only a click away and there are no barriers to competition; if I create a better search algorithm I could set up a server in my garage and compete globally with Google. To even discuss applying anti-trust in this kind of hyper-competitive environment defies all logic and the very underpinnigns of anti-trust law itself.
His admission, that Google is indeed a massive entity, likely is designed to push back against the FTC for targeting Google specifically in the search space, despite the relatively high level of competitive search engines on the market. Antitrust violations are not designed to punish really successful companies, and they're not supposed to just go after companies for being "big." Rather, they're designed to prevent anti-competitive practices for the benefit of a healthy marketplace and, most importantly, for the benefit of consumers. While the country is still waiting for the official charges against Google by the FTC over any kind of anti-competitive behavior, there can be little doubt that there is indeed a swath of competition and that the public is pleased with Google's product. It's not like Bing and Yahoo (or Blekko or DuckDuckGo) don't exist, after all, it's just that more people trust Google for their search results. None of this seems worth pursuing an antitrust suit over. As Polis notes:
I have never heard one of my constituents say that they don't feel like they have enough choices online, or that they feel locked in to using any one of these services. Competition among these services is leading to lots of great services for consumers -- and consumers aren't asking Congress or the FTC to protect them.
Indeed, it only seems to be Google competitors who are asking for help here. And that's not the purpose of antitrust law.

Having said all that, Polis went further in his letter, issuing a warning to the FTC that if screws this up, it risks being downsized.
The FTC should tread carefully when reviewing Google, Facebook, Twitter or any other tech company, given the dynamism of our tech industry and the potential for making things worse through regulation. Today's giants can be tomorrow's failures without any government intervention; market forces drive obsolescence at a break neck pace which should only further abrogated the need for government intervention. I believe that application of anti-trust against Google would be a woefully misguided step that would threaten the integrity of our anti-trust system, and could ultimately lead to Congressional action resulting in a reduction in the ability of the FTC to enforce critical anti-trust protections in industries where markets are being distorted by monopolies and oligopolies.
Critics of Google will point to this as some kind of hinted blackmail by Polis, but that isn't at all what he's saying. All he's saying in this instance is that if the FTC brings a poor case against Google and loses face over it, the representatives of the people (whom government is supposed to serve) will take action. It's a warning that the FTC had better have its ducks in a row when considering such a move against a huge member of the national business community.

In the end, we'll have to see if any actual anti-competitive practices by Google are really brought forth. Barring that, Google simply being really successful is no reason to bring an antitrust suit against them.

Reader Comments

The First Word

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Oct 2012 @ 4:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Corporatized Freedom

    Do you think that Google using their dominant position in search and advertising is good for the end user, compared to there being many other options out there? Do you consider it good that Google uses it's dominant position (and locked in position in Android, example) to push people towards search results that generate the most profit? Is that good for the people? Which people, exactly?

    Prove they push search results, I challenge you. I've compared the results of a few search engines and the only thing Google do is to enhance the results based on your surfing habits if you are logged in and want them to do it. Android is open, I can go and install a Cyanogen Mod on my mobile phone whenever I want. And there are phones that actually make that much easier already. So again, PROVE IT.

    So don't you think it odd that one of the major opponents of SOPA (Google) has one of the major opponents of SOPA (Polis) calling off the FTC? Did you bother to take a second to see how much Google money got filtered through the charities and PACs and groups towards Mr Polis' campaign funds? Crony capitalism and regulatory capture go both ways.

    Thanks for presenting a non-issue. First because Google was very late in entering the fight. Second because Polis is mentioning many of Googles competitors and third, the other side was also packed with MAFIAA sponsored congress critters in much higher levels and with much more money. Your point?

    Again, what part of the public? All of it? Some of it? Even if they break the law?

    What law has been broken? Evidence please. You are all talk, all bs so far.

    You don't think that they are perhaps using their dominating position and huge cash reserves to move into other markets, harming existing business (you know, where the public works), and causing disruption where none would naturally occur?

    You see, PepsiCo moved from the beverages market to food in general using their dominant position in the beverage market. I don't see you complaining. Microsoft went from their software market with their huge financial muscles and started Bing, a search engine. I don't see you complaining. If they are actually causing a disruption it's because they are offering a better product so it is a good thing. Seriously, you need to educate yourself in reality.

    Their ability to keep propping up destructive business models with other income sources isn't good for the public in the long run, IMHO.

    Never mind that ALL THE DAMN COMPANIES IN THE WORLD do that. Never mind that many of their attempts failed because even with shitloads of money they didn't do it right (Buzz is a good example, Wave another). You should refrain from talking about what you don't understand or at least adopt a humble stance of learning. Seriously, there's too much bs in your post...

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