September 20, 2011

Senate Antitrust Hearing to Examine Google Practices


antitrust law, Federal Trade Commission

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by Nicole Flatow

Whether Google’s business practices “serve consumers” or “threaten competition” will be the subject of a Senate subcommittee hearing tomorrow.

The hearing follows the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement in June that it will begin an antitrust probe of Google to determine whether it has “abused its dominance in Web-search advertising.”

Among the concerns the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing will address is the prominence of "Google-affiliated content” in search results. For example, if a user inputs the name of a business into the Google search engine, the results page might feature a Google map or the company’s stock information via Google Finance.

As PCWorld’s Ian Paul explains, “That may be handy for you, but the downside of Google's actions is that sites that used to get traffic from a Google search such as Mapquest, Expedia, or weather and stock information sites, lose traffic. With Google providing the answers users are looking for instead of third-party Websites, the search results for competing products are effectively demoted.”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who will be the first to testify, told ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour that he is looking forward to the opportunity.

“What we want is sort of a fast hearing on all of these issues,” he said. “I think at the moment this is more of an awareness issue. We have an opportunity to communicate what we’re doing. Senators have an opportunity to communicate their concerns and I think that’s very good.”

Watch the hearing live at 2 p.m. eastern time tomorrow via the Senate Judiciary Committee’s webcast feed or on C-SPAN’s Capitol Hearings page.