The price of being Google – or any corporation that grows to the point of dominating a single market – is the inevitable antitrust probe. On September 21, 2011, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive and current executive chairman was given the task of reassuring members on the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee that Google is not attempting to illegally abuse its power.
According to the Washington Post:
The broad antitrust argument against Google goes like this: The company’s dominant share of the search market means that it has unparalleled influence over what users find and don’t find on the Internet. As Google has branched into products beyond its main search engine, including mapping, travel and shopping, companies have accused Google of giving its own content better placement in its search results. Critics say this hurts not only smaller companies but also consumers, who don’t get the best results.
Google’s goal is to give people using their search engine the answer as quickly as possible. Google claims no malicious intent toward its competitors though the company seems to have admitted to pushing its own results higher, and as a consequence, pushed other sites down. Competition, however, worries that users will miss them completely by not being in the top spots.
Senator Richard Blumenthal offered the following analogy as a reason the search engine giant is being looked at so closely by the U.S. and Europe: “You run the racetrack. You own the racetrack. For a long time, you didn’t have any horses. Now you have horses . . . and your horses seem to be winning.”
Schmidt remained cool despite accusations by Senator Mike Lee that Google “cooked” results by consistently showing up third for Google Shopping inquiries. His response was quick and to the point, “Senator, may I simply say that I can assure you we’ve not cooked anything.”
Whether or not Schmidt’s assurances will assuage fears and concerns is something that’s still up in the air. However, Google’s continued acquisition of companies beyond its core search business coupled with its dominance of that area is most likely not helping its case.