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Monday, 14 January 2013 10:48

Anti-Trust Watchdog defends Google decision

Written by Nick Farrell



It is a jolly nice company that supports politicians


The US FTC defended its decision to let Google carry on with its anti-trust-like antics, while other regulations in civilised nations are planning to put the boot in.

The US Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Google which really did little to stop the company using its dominance to push down search results from its competitors. The move attracted considerable criticism because it followed a letter from US senators to go easy on the search engine because it was good for US jobs.  We guess they mean the jobs of US senators who Google paid campaign contributions.

Google promised to change the ways it presents some search results and runs search advertising, but was exonerated of the results bias claims. Rivals including Yelp and Microsoft claimed that Google had favoured its own product results over those of its competitors and called for the anti-trust case. What makes the case look more suspect is that the EU is less frightened of actually fining Google or forcing it to behave. Indeed indications from Brussels are that it has not only agreed with the rival’s complaints but will do something about it if Google does not pull finger.

But FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz told Talking Points Memo that the agency's decision was legally sound and would be beneficial to competition and consumers. Under facts we found, all five of us, from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican, agreed that the evidence militated against an anti-trust case," Leibowitz told TPM.

The fact that we managed to have both Google and Google's rivals unhappy, in an odd way that's maybe unique to Washington, that puts us in the right place substantively, he claimed. When asked if Google’s $25 million lobbying budget for the duration FTC's investigation helped, he said that lobbying makes the companies feel good and lobbyists feel good.

"At the end of the day, whether you want to say lobbying had any influence, or cancelled itself out because there was lobbying on both sides, if you're going to do what lobbyists want you to do in a regulatory agency, you're not doing your job."

When the FTC announced the settlement with Google on January 3, it was portrayed as a victory for Google. Leibowitz said that reporters think of this in some ways as a horse race, when it is about doing the right thing. So the question is why is doing the “right thing” possible in the EU and not in the US?

More here.

Nick Farrell

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