What's going on with the Federal Trade Commission's Google antitrust investigation?
Commission officials piqued the industry's curiosity last week when they announced that they had hired litigator Beth A. Wilkinson to assist in the investigation. The Paul Weiss partner is a former Justice Department prosecutor, and some have compared her hiring to that of David Boies when the government sued Microsoft.
Others just see it as proof that the FTC is prepared to litigate should Google not bend to its terms.
Those terms are far off, as the Google antitrust investigation is still in its early stages. The Commission is investigating whether the tech giant has abused its search engine dominance. It controls about 66% of the search market in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
Regulators believe that Google has manipulated its search algorithm -- how it ranks search results -- in a way that places competing products further down the page. These changes have driven traffic away from other sites and to Google-branded sites.
Not everyone is supportive of this theory. Google is constantly updating its algorithm. They bill these changes as ways to ensure that users are getting the best search results. They downgrade spam sites and promote active, timely sites. This is good for the consumer.
Competitors, however, see this as a bad thing because it puts them out of business, explains Forbes. Regulators, it seems, are also quick to believe the company has a more nefarious purpose. This was the very argument used in Microsoft, and it seems to create a situation that aims to punish Google for its continued success.
Whether regulators will be able to tell the difference between anti-competitive moves and pro-consumer changes is up for debate. But as of now, it looks like the Google antitrust investigation is not going to end favorably for the search giant.
- FTC Recruits Beth Wilkinson for Google Antitrust Probe (Wall Street Journal)
- European Union Circling the Antitrust Wagons Around Google? (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Justice Department's Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple, Publishers over E-books (FindLaw's Courtside)