Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

With Great Power Comes Great Assholery

The Wall Street Journal (accidentally) got their hands on some internal FTC documents surrounding the Google antitrust case, and they’re amazing. Brent Kendall, et. al., reports:

In discussing one of the issues the FTC staff wanted to sue over, the report said the company illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon to improve its own websites. It cited one instance when Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items. It also copied Amazon’s reviews and ratings, the report found. A spokesmen for TripAdvisor didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, Google threatened to remove them from its search engine.

From a separate report by Brody Mullins:

One way Google favored its own results was to change its ranking criteria. Google typically ranks sites based on measures like the number of links that point to a site, or how often users click on the site in search results.

But Marissa Mayer, who was then a Google vice president, said Google didn’t use click-through rates to determine the ranking for its own specialized-search sites, because they would rank too low, according to the staff report. […]

Instead, Google would “automatically boost” its own sites for certain specialized searches that otherwise would favor rivals, the FTC found. If a comparison-shopping site was supposed to rank highly, Google Product Search was placed above it. When Yelp was deemed relevant to a user’s search query, Google Local would pop up on top of the results page, the staff wrote.

Everyone suspected this. Now we know.

I would never argue that Google is an altruistic organization, or that what they’re doing here isn’t in their obvious business interest. But Google has huge market share, and any company that has a vastly dominant market share has a responsibility to not be an anticompetitive dickhead.

The 160-page critique concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”

Exactly. So why did this case — which, by the way, recommended a lawsuit against Google — result in no charges and no suit?

Google was the second-largest corporate source of campaign donations to President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.

Yet another example of just how well the system works.