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Congressman Promises to Limit FTC’s Power if Anti-Trust Case is Brought Against Google

The news that Google may have an FTC case on its hands isn’t even a week old, but it is looking to turn into quite the controversy already. The FTC has been investigating Google as to whether or not they favored their own products in search results over the products and links of other companies. Apparently a decision in the case is close, but one Representative is warning the FTC on their next course of action. 

Democratic Representative from Colorado, Jared Polis has warned the FTC, saying Congress will limit the Commission’s power if they bring a suit against Google. Polis said the move would be a “woefully misguided step that would threaten the very integrity of our anti-trust system.” Some very strongly worded arguments are being sent the FTC’s way.

This is certainly some pretty strong political positioning. Congress has every right to limit the FTC if they see fit, but such a reaction seems a bit overzealous. Google has maintained that they have done nothing illegal with their search result rankings, but if Google is wrong in some way, shouldn’t the FTC be free to bring suit against them?

This is shaping up to be a pretty big legal battle in one way or the other. What do you think of the Congressional message?

Via: BGR

  • soc13kid

    Then NBC, ABC, CNN, etc., etc. cannot advertise for any of their own shows because they are ‘stealing’ that adspace/time from Cialis, Fiat, or any other advertiser, including even Apple. Hell, I’m surprised that Apple hasn’t sued these broadcasting companies for that very thing! Okay, that may be far-fetched even for Apple.

    But as others have said, just about every company does this. Bing and Amazon, Storefront billboards, and every other advertising locale. I just can’t see how this would be pushed through, but then again I’m not the FTC.

  • Jillxz

    I personally don’t care whether Google does or doesn’t .

  • Amenemhat1

    “Corporatocracy is a term used to suggest an economic and political system is controlled by corporations or corporate interests.” Wikipedia – Try to sue Google and the gov has problem with that…

  • Riz Virani

    I’m just wondering, is no one in the FTC thinking “What if Google offered the most to themselves to promote a product?”

  • Barack NoBama

    Apparently Google has purchased a Colorado Congressman as well as the White House. This is the kind of stuff that makes people not trust politicians. If Google has broken the law then it’s the FTC’s responsibility to go after them. It seems that Jared Polis is more concerned about his bribes than consumer protection for the people he has sworn to serve.

    • Droidzilla

      You have a name like “Barack NoBama,” but you’re for the FTC doing giant shakedowns and against the People’s representatives protecting basic rights and fighting encroachment? This is surreal.

      Also, I’m a Coloradan and I support what he’s saying, here. He swore to serve me, and I’m cool with this course of action. Representative Republic in the works.

  • master94

    Now I know to vote Democrat if Im ever in Colorado.

    • Droidzilla

      Our Republicans are the same way.

  • master94

    You would think they would go after Apple for having a monopoly on lawyers and suing competitors instead of Google who is helping the consumer.

    • Droidzilla

      You don’t bite the hand that feeds.

  • flosserelli

    This is like a customer walking into a Ford dealership looking for a 1/2 ton pickup truck. The salesperson walks the customer out to the lot, shows him a row of F150s, and the FTC complains that the salesman didn’t offer a Chevy Silverado or Toyota Tundra.

    Google provides the search service, so Google has the right to present the results any way they choose. Google is not the only search service. They don’t have a monopoly on search. If the FTC (or anyone else, for that matter) doesn’t like the results that are provided, they are free to use any number of alternative search providers.

  • trumpet444

    One of the few times I’m agreeing with a Dem. Way to go Jared Polis. This isn’t any of the gov’ts business. Just a bunch of busy bodies sticking their noses into way too many things these days.

    • Droidzilla

      Agreed on all counts. That’s how we roll in Colorado!

      Well, that and we all shoot each other for some reason.

  • Skeptical

    It’s all Apples fault!

  • http://twitter.com/kirilv Kiril

    Wait, how is this ever a trust issue? Google is a business, and the search it provides is a product. This investigation equates to “we don’t like Google search”, and no other product has been sued on the sole grounds of being bad. Using your business to advertise your business is not a trust… it’s business. Why is no one investigating those billboards that say “call this number if you want to purchase billboard space”?

  • mustbepbs

    Google is a company advertising their own products…how is this illegal again? They own it.

  • Syrio35

    Yes, let’s all go back to the wonderful 19th century – 1932 when large corporations could screw you any which way and the feds made sure you liked it! And that’s regardless of the whatever merits this case possesses.

    • trumpet444

      1932 would be in the 20th century, unless you meant 19th century “to” 1932

  • Knowles2

    I hope the lawsuit goes ahead, I am interested in seeing the arguments FTC will present to the court to neutralise Google 1st amendment defence.

  • http://twitter.com/armus75 Armus

    They need to break up crapple

    • trumpet444

      I don’t like apple one bit but I greatly disagree with what you just said

  • d-rock

    Google “search engine” and see what you get. Tell me google is guilty of this.

    • New_Guy

      Bing actaully came up as the first result =D

    • RedPandaAlex

      eBooks – first commercial result is Amazon
      Social Network – first commercial result is Facebook

      I’m not saying that it isn’t wrong if it’s true, but I see no evidence that Google is artificially elevating its own products.

    • Larizard

      Hah! I see what u did thur

  • D-rock

    If this doesn’t show innocence, I’m not sure what does:

    https://www.google.com/#hl=en&safe=off&sclient=psy-ab&q=search+engine&oq=search+engine&gs_l=hp.3..0l4.1962.3738.0.4335.13.7.0.6.6.0.104.466.6j1.7.0.les%3B..0.0…1c.1.d4XEoFC1V8Q&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=327738fe10fbc33&bpcl=35277026&biw=1228&bih=939

    • http://twitter.com/belogical2 Be Logical

      that is funny

    • carlos

      the beautiful part of that link is that it shows how smart they are, ” google says: i’m not going to tell you that you can search thru google even though i will mention bing & yahoo (your already use my service to search for them), no, sue me for being the best”

    • Zeebok

      Dogpile, lol That takes me back.

  • Stevedub40

    Well if Google were to get an antitrust case then so should apple. Everything they do is anti-competitive, so I just don’t see how Google in anyway is breaking the law. You make a choice to use their search, you are not forced to. It’s not Google’s fault the other search engines suck.

    • New_Guy

      There is also no evidence that Google has taken any action to squash out other search engines, they simply provide a superior search result. How silly would it be if we typed in 7″ tablet in the bar and it came up with Apple iPad mini as the top result. Something smells fishy about this case; especailly since the 7″ iPad is about to be released…

      • Justin W

        Ironically, the Nexus 7 doesn’t come up in the top few search results. I would expect both it and the Kindle to come up on top.

    • http://www.engadget.com/ Jon Fingas

      That’s not how antitrust law works.

      Legally, it applies if and when a company has a majority/monopoly position to abuse. That’s why Microsoft was hit with antitrust complaints: it knew it had a monopoly on desktop operating systems and used that to squeeze out competing browsers and software.

      You might make a choice to use Google search, but if you’re a flight search firm or someone else competing with one of Google’s sub-services, your life or death depends on whether or not people see your site in Google’s results. You can’t just rely on business through Bing or start your own search engine. It’d be like arguing that Netscape’s solution to Microsoft’s anti-competitive browser stance in the 1990s would have been to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, start its own desktop operating system and score deals with the top PC vendors. No, the problem was Microsoft — and the antitrust ruling opened the door to alternatives like Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

      • Luxferro

        Windows has always come with IE. Windows comes with a calculator too, and games too. Should they be forced to remove those too? There is no money to be made in what browser comes with the OS. They are all free, and can be installed freely.

        • http://twitter.com/sqlrob Rob

          Really? I remember buying TCP/IP and Netscape separately (and note *BUYING*, they weren’t free)

          • Luxferro

            Well technically, with how I worded it (by chance) I am still right. How are netscape products selling now? you got ripped off ;p

          • http://twitter.com/sqlrob Rob

            Right, they aren’t selling because MS used their monopoly power to squash them.

        • http://www.engadget.com/ Jon Fingas

          Sounds like someone didn’t follow history!

          The issue was not that Microsoft included IE and made dubious ties to the core of the OS that made it impossible for users to remove the browser and difficult to change the defaults. There was a notorious incident in the American antitrust case where Microsoft actually manipulated video to falsely give the impression that installing competitors’ browsers was easy at the time.

          In Google’s case, it’s true that it’s easier for users to leave for competing sites. But it’s not easy for companies to do that. Saying “just stop using Google” for them is telling them “forfeit most of your revenue.” Most people search through Google; a company can’t make them go through another engine to stay profitable. And since most of them are already indexed on rival search services, it’s not like they haven’t tried.

          • Steven02

            I get what you are saying here, but I don’t think it applies to Google. Google uses algorithms and sells ads to determine the placement of items. These algorithms update periodically to give (hopefully) better results.

            The list will come up differently eventually. If it starts to favor something else, then so be it. If Google wants to put some of its services up there, I think it would be fine to do so. If those services benefit customers, then the FTC doesn’t really have a case. Also, it isn’t difficult to scroll down to see other items. If Google is hiding results to stifle competition, then they have a case.

          • trumpet444

            Boo hoo hoo. It is not Google’s fault that other companies put all of their eggs into Google’s basket. It would be like me betting my paycheck on Denver winning tonights game and then bitching about Denver costing me 1/4 months pay if they lost.

            I actually don’t care if Microsoft “actually manipulated video to falsely give the impression that installing competitors’ browsers was easy” because to me, the case was a non issue. I’m glad I’m able to use Chrome and Firefox in Windows but the ends don’t justify the means.

      • trumpet444

        And how did they get to a majority/monopoly position to begin with? By bringing a vastly superior product to market. If that product starts to get corrupt, then it will fail, people will always find an alternative. Some people hate Windows, so they buy/build a mac or linux machine.

        “””your life or death depends on whether or not people see your site in Google’s results”””……. that would be YOUR problem. You built a business model leaning on another private business’s perceived success or trustworthiness and if the crutch you rely on breaks, it is YOUR fault for putting your trust in it.

        Some people simply cannot get this through their heads, Google IS NOT a government entity. It is privately owned and, provided the majority of its shareholders and customers agree, it will do whatever the hell it wants.

        • http://www.engadget.com/ Jon Fingas

          I didn’t say that they built their businesses around Google — it’s that their businesses in the current climate depend on Google. If Bing was the majority, or if everyone was on roughly equal footing, those businesses wouldn’t lean on Google nearly as much.

          Google got to where it was through a superior product, but it’s how the company manages that product once in the dominant position that matters. Google’s attitude wasn’t one of careful management of power; it was “let’s start promoting more of our services over those from others.” In the US, a company with a dominant or monopoly position is expected to recognize that it can’t always behave as it once did if competition is to get a fair shot.

          Also, remember that regulation of corporate behavior is not just a staple of the US system but an absolutely necessary part of it. No, a company cannot do “whatever the hell it wants.” A free market system depends on having viable competition; if dominant companies stifle that competition (intentionally or not), the law has to step in.

          • Steven02

            This is not to protect businesses, but to protect consumers. They will have to prove that consumers are being harmed by what Google is doing. I think that portion is what people are missing. Also, Google is probably going to have an easy case because other search engines also do the same thing with the other services that they offered.

      • b_to_the_randon

        Here’s the thing — no one is ever going to be happy with Google’s search results. Unless you’re in the top of a given set of search results then you won’t be happy. But here’s the difference; if you don’t like it then you need to work to improve your SEO. Google isn’t squeezing you into using their search engine, and it’s not possible to appease every big or small company that feels their result should be in the top-tier of results.

        I will however say that one caveat is that since Google controls the strings with regards to their own search algorithm (and rightly so) that there exists a strawman boogeyman for people to hold against them. However it’s also worth noting that they push out a new set of guidelines every time they make a major change to said algorithm.

        And the flipside is that the public (me and you) largely agree that Google’s search algorithm works. That’s why we’re there. It’s why people who complain that Google is “rigging” the system still opt to pay into those same AdWords programs because it works since Google’s got a good algorithm in the first place.

        The outcome of some crazy ass antitrust case would be to the detriment of Google’s search algorithm, where now you’re telling them that they have to favor whoever complains loudly enough – the search engine will stop giving you relevant results and you’ll stop using it because it sucks.

  • Butters619

    Bing favors Bing stuff too, but nobody is complaining because Bing sucks.

    • Jeremy Turnley

      That’s why this is an anti-trust suit, not a small claims suit.

      • New_Guy

        Exatly, it has to do with the scope. But this seems foolish since the website is owned by Google and there are other search engines available that are just as viable just not as popular. Google has every right to promote its own product on its own website just as much as McDonald’s has the right to exclusively sell its own coffee in its own stores. The FTC wouldn’t require Apple to put Nexus posters in their stores. Type in the words “eReader” in the Amazon home page. Take a wild guess at what’s at the top of the results…Penalizing Google for this (if even true) goes against the very nature of product promotion in nearly every aspect of business.

        • Cracker Jack

          The problem is that Google has taken Money from businesses to promote their products and services. You can not sell a service to a competitor and then use that same service to promote your products Over that of the competitor for whom you accepted money from.

          If you sell donuts and pay me to advertise your donuts I can’t place my donuts ads before yours using the advantage that I run the website. I have to give everyone that pays me to advertise donuts equal time and placements. That’s what this is all about. Someone believes that Google unfairly places their ads ahead of competitors who have paid Google for the ad space.

          • Tim Hardeman

            Amazon does the exact same thing, they put their e-readers above everyone elses in their store.

          • Cowboydroid

            Where is the PROOF?

          • http://twitter.com/alarsonisu Alex Larson

            Sure you can. Its up to those who paid then to decide if their advertising expenditure was worth it given they are putting your paid promotion below another one.

          • normmcgarry

            Google doesn’t display itself in the PAID advertisements area that I have seen. Only the “organic” search area. Seems to me that if Google’s rankings engine thinks “Google” is a stronger keyword and more relevant to the searcher than some of their competitors and gets a higher ranking, I’d just agree with them.

          • Droidzilla

            That’s a breach of contract suit, not an FTC anti-trust case.

        • Mitch

          Why are so many people okay with Google giving you false search results? That can’t possibly good anyone here.

          • Droidzilla

            I’m not OK with that, but if I don’t like it it’s between me and Google. The FTC has no dog in the fight. If I don’t like Google, I can search elsewhere. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that We the People have the right to Google provided, objective search algorithms on the internet (and you cannot extrapolate that clause from existing precepts, either). If Google makes a poor or biased product, so be it. That’s their right as a business.

            For the record, I don’t think Google is doing this. But even if they were, who cares? It shouldn’t be illegal.

      • Cowboydroid

        Google is under no legal obligation to offer what competitors demand. The very idea is ludicrous.

        Not that Google actually does do what they claim. I’ve never noticed, myself. Most of the crying is coming from Microsoft, NOT the users.

      • michael arazan

        Apple and Microsoft have been lobbying congress against Google, and their lobbying persuasion is why this is happening

        from article–

        Apple and Microsoft have been lobbying hard to ban or tax Android. “The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Google’s policies around licensing certain patents and suing other companies that it claims infringe on them,” says the New York Times and this comes after lobbying from Microsoft and Apple.”

        http://techrights.org/2012/10/14/microsoft-ban-strategy/

        • New_Guy

          Nice summary, there.

    • Jillxz

      That may be true , but it’s just your opinion that Bing “sucks” Bing is really very good.

      • Butters619

        I gave Bing a fair shot this summer for a few weeks. It may be from all the years of Googling, but I have come to learn exactly what to type to get the answers I am looking for. I am very good at it. With Bing, I just didn’t get the result I wanted, or they would be farther down, or I would have to get so specific with a search that I would either nail it or find nothing. I just found Google to be faster to get to where I wanted.

        I do like with Bing travel they have links to other websites to buy tickets but the formatting or Bing travel is not as nice on the eyes as Google Travel.

        Google Maps > Bing Maps. It has business reviews embedded and it knows neighborhoods. If I search “Sushi Deli Clairemont” Google Maps knows exactly what I am talking about. If I search that in Bing, I get some weird place in Texas. If I add “San Diego” to the Bing search, I at least get the general location but it shows this macro view of San Diego and all of the sushi deli locations (and sushi diner), which is clearly not what I am looking for.

        So, yes it may be an opinion, but it is not a blind opinion and it has some backing.

        • Jillxz

          Sorry you haven’t had a positive experience with Bing. Google is so embedded into the brain of most , that they just cannot accept something else even if it is equal. I still use Google as my default search. Just like the others , I have a hard time giving it up. But I did apply myself to use Bing as my regular search for several months and found Bing to be almost and sometimes , even better than Google. If I had never used Google , then Bing would do just fine.

  • Daistaar

    As a business Google is entitled to advertise their products and while their algorithm ranks their services high there are alternatives. This should invalidate anything illegal as Bing and other search enjoys will rank their products higher. Not only that but there are a number a search results. If a person is not capable of looking at a few choices and immediately chooses the first ad-sponsored link, shame on them not Google. There is choice out there including pages worth from Google. Use it.

  • Kr B

    I like Google and all, but our Justice System is “innocent until proven guilty.” There shouldn’t be a need to limit the power of the FTC for filing a lawsuit. We want the FTC to be like this so they can pressure the real cronies like Comcast & Verizon. If Google must take a fall for the greater good, then so be it.

    • ANna CAPricorn

      and what would that “greater good” be?

      • Kr B

        Corporations not pandering to politicians. FTC has a system and it should be allowed to bring lawsuits on cases it feels it has evidence for and let the issue be settled in court without government intervention. The “Fall” is going to Court, not being found guilty.

    • D-rock

      This is the biggest injustice there could possibly be. That’s like saying if we have to execute innocent people to get to the guilty ones, so be it? Very flawed in your thinking here.

      • Kr B

        Execute? I didn’t structure my last sentence properly, but I never said Google was guilty, as all of you have seemed to suddenly (and incorrectly) deduced. If Google has to fight a lawsuit that they believe they are truly innocent on, then so be it. You don’t want corporations playing the politician in government, whether what they’re doing is right or wrong. That’s my point that you, and everyone else who thumbed me down, failed to realize.

    • jak_341

      Exactly what has Verizon and Comcast done? They are private companies. The government need not interfere. As a consumer, you are free to take your business elsewhere. It is the ultimate power of the free market.

      • RedPandaAlex

        Except where they’re effective monopolies or duopolies in collusion.

      • Larizard

        Now, getting something banned, and reducing the options for the consumer. That’s what I call anti-competitive (See: Galaxy Nexus).

      • hyperbolee

        Neither Verizon nor Comcast are private companies…

        • David Henry

          I entirely agree, they are publicly traded companies. I think he is meaning that they are not public utilities based on government funding and shouldn’t be regulated so strictly

      • Diablo81588

        Nothing in my area compares to Comcast’s internet. What are my other options? Switch to something a third of the speed but half the price? Comcast can charge as much as they want because there aren’t any other options with similar service in my area.

        • trumpet444

          It doesn’t matter that Comcast has the superior product in your area. You still have a choice.

          • Diablo81588

            My only other option is Verizon DSL, which maxes out at 3mbps download and 768kbps upload. I was being generous when I said a third of the speed. I could technically get 100/50mbps with Comcast. Hardly a choice, as 3mbps is unacceptable at any price for my needs.

    • Guest

      What qualifies a “real crony?” It is important to put everyone under a critical lense, because separating business into good and bad guys based on some subjective criteria is ripe for exploitation and manipulation, whether through lobbying, bribery, or something else.

      • Kr B

        “real crony” is certainly subjective, which is generally determined by the people and there is a general consensus that internet should be more competitive and Verizon is price gouging its customers.

    • trumpet444

      “take a fall for the greater good”? you’re fu**in stupid

  • S2556

    Didn’t see this one coming. Now going to confirm BGR has a reliable source

  • ddevito

    Looks like Google’s recent push in lobbying efforts are starting to pay off. Well played Mr. Schmidt, well played.