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Did the US government miss the opportunity to curb Google? Five months ago, I asked that question in this newsletter. The newly released documents show that the answer is yes.
On Tuesday, Politico published articles based on previously unpublished internal memos from an Obama-era government investigation into whether Google was abusing its power to stifle its death. competition and hurt Americans or not. In early 2013, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that Google’s conduct did not violate the law. However, the company has agreed to change some business methods.
Reading the docs with the benefit of insight, I was surprised that investigators saw red signs in Google’s behavior, but were divided about whether they should or could do anything wrong. whatever it is. Currently, three antitrust lawsuits are pending against Google, and the government now cites some similar warning signs that investigators consider evidence of the company’s illegal monopoly power. .
Can the downside of Google’s influence on online advertising and digital information be avoided if the government places more barriers on areas of behavior that some at the FTC have found worrying near a decade ago?
Let me go through three points or questions that I have from this Google repository:
Cause of the current cases against Google:
Of the three antitrust lawsuits currently pending against Google, I will focus on two: First, the Justice Department says that Google used business deals with Apple and phone companies. Android smart to strengthen our digital lives. And a group of US state attorneys general claims that Google has made it difficult for online experts in areas like home repair services and travel reviews.
The funny thing about current government lawsuits is that the majority of behavior is old news. Not everything. But a lot. That was obvious before, but the FTC documents have made that undeniable. (The Wall Street Journal also got a part of one of these in 2015.)
Politico documents show internal fear in the FTC in 2012 that Google will use its money and power to ensure that their search box is prominent on smartphones and expands. his digital dominance. Basically, that’s what the US government (and the European Union) says Google did. Google has said that the government’s statements have no value.
And based on interviews and emails from executives at Google and other companies, government employees noticed that Google promoted its own products – and in some cases downgraded feed identical information online from competitors – as it helps Google’s bottom line. Again, that is central behavior in one of the state’s lawsuits.
In a blog post, Google said the documents supported the company’s view that their behavior could most likely benefit consumers.
I wonder what could have happened if Uncle Sam made different choices almost a decade ago – and many times before and since.
What if, in 2012, the FTC economists did not underestimate the possibility that Google could use money and coercion to lock its power on smartphones? Would another choice of agency change the course of the smartphone industry and the internet? Are you reading this newsletter on your Amazon or Mozilla phone and is it an improvement?
Nearly a decade ago, some members of the FTC staff were puzzled to find that Google pulled information from websites including Amazon, TripAdvisor and Yelp – even when those companies asked to stop – to make their own web search more attractive. Employees write that this behavior signals people on the internet that Google can do whatever they like.
What if the government then tried to stop Google’s bullying? Similarly, what if the government forced Google to open its search results to outsiders? Today, if you search for hotels in Niagara Falls or a pediatrician nearby, Google mainly displays the information they gathered, instead of the listings from TripAdvisor and ZocDoc, which might help. than. US government employees are also concerned about such behavior.
Those choices led to the internet we have today. It was one of the places where Google made itself the first and last stop for many internet searches. In an alternate history, we’re likely to have more and better options online.
Is it pointless to play “what if”?
Wishing for a different internet doesn’t mean the government should screw up the law for that to happen.
Politico documents show that those at the FTC in 2012 believe that the law is not on the side of the government in some cases, or that what Google is doing may have beaten the competition but also made the conclusion. search results and the web is better for us. This may also be true today.
The FTC’s employees are also not very smart, who can predict how competition will play out online.
However, with the benefits of hindsight, it is not difficult to wonder how the internet economy could be differentiated and less dominated by today’s giants if the government sought to change economic mode. joint venture of Google at that time.
Before we go …
The intermediary for Uber drivers’ contractor status: Uber and similar “show economy” companies have struggled to get them to treat their traffic as regular employees. My colleague Adam Satariano writes that Uber has pulled back from its tough stance in the UK after losing a major lawsuit and will provide drivers in the country with minimum wages, vacation pay, and several other benefits. .
What happens to virtual learning technology? My colleague Natasha Singer writes about distance learning technologies that may exist as direct education returns widely.
Wikipedia wants to be paid: Wired reported on Wikipedia trying to keep an option free for most of us and create a premium version for commercial users like Google.
How did I not know about Squishmallows before ?! My colleague, Taylor Lorenz, learned about the brightly colored stuffed animals / pillows that people collect, display and hug.
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