In the Matter of Google Inc.

FTC File Number 111-0163

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In the Matter of Google Inc.

Statement of the Federal Trade Commission Regarding Google’s Search Practices, January 3, 2013
FTC File Number 111-0163

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated whether Google search bias violates antitrust law. Google used proprietary algorithms to return organic search results listing relevant websites in response to user queries. The Google results page returned those organic results along with advertising, links to Google products, and other information Google considered relevant to the user’s query. Google search bias meant Google’s own proprietary content appeared above the usual 10 blue links of organic search content, sometimes pushing competing search engines’ websites below the fold. Google generally used a horizontal search engine that searched across the whole internet. Vertical search engines that specialized in narrow categories such as shopping or travel did not substitute for Google; instead, they offered users alternatives for specific searches. Some vertical websites claimed Google manipulated its algorithms to demote competing vertical search engines in its results. But the evidence showed Google adopted the changes to improve the quality of its search results and overall user experience. Google’s primary goal was quickly answering and providing better results in response to user queries. The evidence showed Google typically tested, monitored, and carefully considered how prioritizing its own vertical content affected general search results, and Google demoted that content to a lower ranking if it adversely affected user experiences. Click-through data also suggested users actually benefited from the changes. After considering that evidence, the FTC issued a statement describing its findings and announcing its decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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