FE Editorial : Googling the competition
The US Federal Trade Commission’s unanimous decision to drop its almost two-year long case against Google without bringing charges over the main issue—of whether Google favours its own services in its search results, thus stifling competition—is undoubtedly a major victory for the search giant. But the relevant question is how the FTC’s decision affects consumers. The case against Google came about when the company’s competitors (notably Microsoft, but also including several sector-specific search engines such as Yelp) complained that Google was misusing its search algorithm to promote its own services over those of its competitors. For example, when a user searches for flight details on Google, the first link presented is one of Google’s own travel service, followed by those of competitors like Expedia. Google argued that its algorithm was neutral and that the reason its own services were placed highest was because it provided a one-stop answer, as opposed to directing users to yet another website where they could search for their answer. The FTC seems to have bought into the argument, saying that “Evidence does not support a claim that Google’s prominent display of its own content on its general search page was undertaken without legitimate justification.” Further, Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, reiterated that “on balance we did not believe that the evidence supported an FTC challenge to this aspect of Google’s business under American law.”
While it is true many of these laws came into being before it was imagined
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