Google Inc Vs. The Wall Street Journal

29 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FTC Dismisses Report On Google Antitrust investigation Being Bias.

Deputy NFL Commissioner Tom Brady and his chief of staff, Rob Gronkowski, OK a rule change that forgives the Patriots for illegally taping other teams and deflating football over the preceding years. Google, a search company, fired back today at a string of reports published in the Wall Street Journal over the past few weeks that have brought the company and its business practices under scrutiny.

Three officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claim their 2013 choice to close the Google antitrust investigation was not triggered by the tech companies lobby and White House associations. Meanwhile, members of the Patriots continue to happily contribute funding for the commissioner’s new 45-room castle in Turks and Caicos, and Bill Belichick agrees to continue coaching the commissioner’s 12-year-old son in Pop Warner football. But today, it admitted in a roundabout way just how deep its ties into the government go as it defended itself against claims it tampered with an FTC investigation back in 2012. The now-dated case against Google came back to the forefront of technology news when the government accidentally leaked — by its own admission — part of an internal document this month arguing that the company had “unlawfully maintained its monopoly over general search” through several tactics. Photo: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES When federal antitrust regulators probed the search-engine business three years ago, they found that Google Inc.’s domination of the field was even greater than they had thought.

While the FTC ultimately decided not to bring a lawsuit against Google, reports published by the WSJ indicated the commission was deeply divided on whether it should sue — and another report exposed the close ties that Google has with the Obama administration. Ohlhausen claimed the commission’s settlement with Google tended to the concerns mentioned in the document by getting Google’s commitment to change some of its business policies.

Today, Google responded to some of the allegations in the piece, taking the time to clarify some of the points as well as to deflect attention to other companies. The implication was that Google used its influence in the White House to ultimately sway the FTC’s decision in its favor — something that Google is now vigorously denying in an unusual post today on its public policy blog. Taking issue with the figure of 230 appearances that the WSJ claims, Google senior vice president of communications and policy Rachel Whetstone says that 33 of the visits were by people not employed by Google at the time — so in other words, they weren’t representing Google.

FTC responded to the allegation yesterday stating that Google abided to the new business practices brought forth by the FTC and so there was no need for a further investigation into the matter, as no harm had been faced by the consumers. The document quoted Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, saying that, from an antitrust perspective, he was happy that research firm comScore Inc. typically understated Google’s market share.

The case was settled; however, a document from the FTC brought to light by the Journalexplicitly quotes some staffers as saying: “Google’s conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” It’s clearly evident that there was dissent in the commission regarding this issue; however, it had to be let go. Mullins referred to guest logs and emails that indicated Google Chairman Eric Schmidt had met with a senior consultant to the president and Google Larry Page had met with FTC authorities preceding the FTC’s declaration that it was closing its in Google’s claimed anti-competition practices. You can wargame in your mind as much as you want as to why the Journal is going after Google and the FTC, but it seems for now that when it comes to a particular bout of wrestling, the technology company is the happier pig. It claims Microsoft made 270 visits over the same period, whereas Comcast made 150 visits — which is in stark contrast to the WSJ’s claims of just 20. Humorously, Google tries to imply that a bunch of those visits were for technical support, curiously saying that “over five” of its visits were for support of the administration’s botched launch.

Lastly, Google says that it wasn’t visiting to discuss the anti-trust investigation — it was there to discuss a huge host of other concerns, including “patent reform, STEM education, self-driving cars, mental health, advertising, Internet censorship,” and a host of others. The company further went on to argue that the Journal’s count of Google’s White House visits was exaggerated; it said that the number was overestimated by counting ex-employees as active, among other reasons. Microsoft Corp.’s Bing and Yahoo Inc., which relies on Bing, had a combined 23% U.S. share on personal computers in February, estimated StatCounter. Those figures include only “general” searches, excluding searches for products on Inc. or local-business information on Yelp Inc., for example.

Obama lieutenant David Plouffe boasts: “On Election Night [Schmidt] was in our boiler room in Chicago,” he told Bloomberg News, in a story that revealed that for the campaign Schmidt “helped recruit talent, choose technology and coach the campaign manager, Jim Messina, on the finer points of leading a large organization.” Schmidt was especially fond of a madcap corner of the Obama campaign office known as “the Cave,” where, at 4:30 every day, staffers would dance madly under a disco ball to the tune of a mashup of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and an automated campaign phone call made to prospective voters. And over five visits were a Google engineer on leave helping to fix technical issues with the government’s website (something he’s been very public about).

And hey, presto, the FTC, in 2012, ignored the recommendations of its own staffers, which accused Google of abusive trade practices for burying competitors in their search results and recommended a lawsuit. Google lobbyists have been pushing for implementation of “net neutrality” regulations, particularly a “Title II” provision that would benefit Google. Google’s large lead in searches also gives the company an advantage in search advertising, scooping up around four-fifths of advertisers’ search-engine marketing budgets, according to industry players. In the report, the FTC staff said Google was best positioned to provide “the ‘right’ ad for the ‘right’ user at the ‘right’ time.” As a result, website operators that want to provide search-based ads on their own sites prefer to work with Google.

You can argue all you want about whether the Journal’s allegations hold any truth; however, in my opinion Google has really lowered the bar by climbing down to the level of the Internet commenters. While Google has the required facts to defend itself, the company failed to present them in a thoughtful manner — an act which doesn’t really support its side of the argument. Right before the FCC report was due, but before it was made public, the FCC pulled another odd reversal, removing 15 pages of policy Google apparently found out about but didn’t like. The social network’s share of world-wide digital advertising revenue doubled to 8% between 2011 and 2014, according to research firm eMarketer, a period when Google’s share fell from 33% to 31%.

Even moving information off the first page of search results would effectively neutralize it: According to a 2013 study, 91.5 percent of Google search users click through on a first-page result. Google’s idea of ranking results based on truth is an excellent one that it should implement just as soon as it comes up with an absolutely, unbiased and objective system of determining truth. Other apps help smartphone users bypass Google for lucrative searches, using Amazon to search for products or Priceline to book a hotel room, for example. Google is a big player in mobile through its Android mobile-operating system, which ran about 80% of the smartphones shipped in 2014, estimates Strategy Analytics.

The company’s tactics, particularly the agreements that Google signs with smartphone makers, have piqued the interest of antitrust regulators in Europe. Those deals have required device makers to install a range of Google’s less popular apps and to set some Google services like search as defaults in order to gain access to more popular apps like Google Maps and the Play Store digital bazaar, where users can download more than a million other apps and games.

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