Google Antitrust Hearing Takes Place Today

Google’s big antitrust hearing with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust is today at 2:00PM. The witness list includes: Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Nextag ...
Google Antitrust Hearing Takes Place Today
Written by Chris Crum

Google’s big antitrust hearing with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust is today at 2:00PM. The witness list includes: Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Nextag CEO Jeff Katz, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Covington & Burling LLP partner Thomas Barnett and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC partner Susan A. Creighton.

Stoppelman shared his testimony on the Yelp blog today:

Yelp Testimony

Google has a post here with “responses to senate hearing witness claims”. Here are the responses to claims from Stoppelman:

1. CLAIM: “Google is no longer in the business of sending people to the best sources of information on the web. It now hopes to be a destination site itself for one vertical market after another, including news, shopping, travel, and now, local business reviews. It would be one thing if these efforts were conducted on a level playing field, but the reality is they are not.”

RESPONSE: Sometimes the best, most useful answer to a query is one of the traditional “ten blue links.” But sometimes it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, flight times, video, shopping results, or a map — any of which we may place above or among the other results from across the web. Every search engine has shifted toward providing more answers directly in the search results — because it’s what consumers want.

2. CLAIM: “We again asked that Google cease its practice of co-opting content from Yelp for its own benefit. Google responded by removing Yelp links from portions of Google’s web search product, providing a new twist on the same old false choice: if we chose not to help power Google Local, we could not appear in the “merged” portions of Google’s web search results. To date, consumers cannot find links to Yelp in Google’s merged results, belying Google’s public pronouncements that “the competition is just one click away.”

RESPONSE: Yelp’s website continues to appear in organic web search results like any other site we index (for example, on relevant searches such as “restaurants” and “review site”). However, to meet Yelp’s demand not to use the content we crawl from Yelp for any of our local search services, their website no longer appears on results from precisely those local search services, including when those local results are on the search results page. 

3. CLAIM: “Is a consumer (or a small business, for that matter) well served when Google artificially promotes its own properties regardless of merit? This has nothing to do with helping consumers get to the best information; it has everything to do with generating more revenue.”

RESPONSE: In fact, most of the click traffic (roughly two-thirds of clicks) from our local search result pages goes directly to small business websites, and review sites make up the next largest percentage (about a quarter of clicks). Less than 10% of clicks from our local results page go to Google Place Pages.

4. CLAIM: “Today represents a rare opportunity for the government to protect innovation.”

RESPONSE: Unfortunately, what Yelp and other sites are proposing is that the government intervene in one company’s product design — specifically by regulating search results. While competitors may like that, ultimately we believe that regulation of search results will make make search engines less useful for consumers.

FairSearch sent us an email with findings from a FairSearch-sponsored survey about Americans and the FTC’s antitrust investigation of Google. The main findings, as presented by the organization are:

  • Most Americans support the FTC investigation of Google.
  • The majority of Americans are troubled by Google’s dominance of the online marketplace, both in the abstract and when Google is named.
  • Majorities find Google’s business practices unfair.
  • Over six in ten (63%) say it is unfair for Google to use the profits it makes from its dominant position in search advertising to buy smaller, innovative companies at an early stage, preventing them from becoming competitors.
  • Eight in ten (79%) Americans favor the FTC’s investigation of the company for restricting fair competition and misleading consumers. Half (49%) say they strongly favor the FTC’s actions.
  • Over eight in ten (84%) say it is unfair for Google to take content from other websites and present it as its own, depriving these other websites of potential consumer traffic.
  • Three-quarters (74%) say it is unfair for Google to raise prices for advertising without notice and to favor large e-commerce companies over small local businesses.
  • Over six in ten (64%) believe a single company that controls 79% of the market for a good or service should be subject to existing antitrust laws. Only a quarter (23%) say such a company should not be subject to these laws and 13% are not sure.
  • Almost six in ten (57%) feel that Google’s control of 79% of the search advertising market is bad for consumers. Only a third (33%) consider this a good thing for consumers.
  • Two thirds (65%) believe Google’s control of the mobile search market is bad for consumers.

Do you think Google is anti-competitive? Let us know in the comments.

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