Barnett: Google’s Search Tactics Warrant Antitrust Scrutiny

May 9th, 2011 | Bookmark and Share | SUBSCRIBE

Tom Barnett, counsel to FairSearch member Expedia Inc., lays out a clear argument for further scrutiny of Google by antitrust authorities in a commentary today published by BGov (a Bloomberg service focused on policy requiring a subscription) and also available to Bloomberg’s 300,000 paid terminal users.

Barnett writes in his piece:

“Google’s search engine has become the central nervous system that enables users to navigate the hundreds of millions of sites that exist on the Internet… Initially, Google was only a general search engine and had incentive to direct users to the sites most likely to answer their queries. Now Google also offers services that compete with other sites to provide specialized “vertical” search services in particular segments (such as books, videos, maps and, soon, travel) and information sought by users (such as hotel and restaurant reviews in Google Places).

“So Google now has an incentive to use its control over search traffic to steer users to its own services and to foreclose the visibility of competing websites.”

Barnett lays out three areas in which “there are numerous indications that Google is making it difficult for other sites to compete”: manipulating search results of competitor sites with the result of lowering their rankings; steering users to its own services by inserting links to its own services at the top of search result pages, often without disclosing that to users; and using content from other sites without their authorization to keep Google users on its site rather than going to another site (see Yelp and TripAdvisor for more information)

Barnett’s piece concludes:

“All of these activities by Google warrant serious antitrust scrutiny… It’s important for consumers that antitrust enforcers thoroughly investigate Google’s activities to ensure that competition and innovation on the Internet remain vibrant. The ITA decision is a great win for consumers; even bigger issues and threats remain.”

To receive a copy of the entire BGov commentary by Barnett, email info@fairsearch.org.