Congress zeroes in on Google during lengthy tech antitrust hearing

One company — Google-parent Alphabet Inc. — took more of lawmakers’ heat than the others (Apple, Amazon, and Facebook) as company leaders appeared on Wednesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust.

Richard Nieva for CNET:

Google antitrust. Image: Google logoSundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive, faced bipartisan criticism. He was hammered on the company’s digital ad business, privacy practices and policies toward working with the military.

Right off the bat, Rep. David Cicilline, the Democrat from Rhode Island who is leading the House’s investigation into big tech companies, zeroed in on the search giant. “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” Cicilline asked Pichai, who appeared over a video feed from a sparse and brightly beige office… Other lawmakers dug into Google, too. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, scrutinized Google’s relationship with China. When he got a second chance to ask questions, Gaetz accused Google of silencing conservative voices, a common refrain among GOP members of Congress. Rep. Greg Steube, also a Republican from Florida, brought up the theme of anti-conservative bias, too.

Pichai testified alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook. As the hearing got underway, lawmakers largely ignored Cook and Bezos — the world’s richest person — though the subcommittee members turned to Bezos more frequently as the hearing went on.

Of the four companies, Google is in the most imminent danger of antitrust action.

MacDailyNews Take: Of the four companies that participated at the hearing, there is one company that is really stifling competition: Google.

When one search engine has 86% share of the worldwide market (and Google basically isn’t even used in China), there is far, far, far too much power concentrated in one company. The whole concept of the World Wide Web is destroyed when a sole gatekeeper basically controls what gets seen, read, and heard. It’s not open, it’s completely closed and controlled.

Publishers who want to be read, for example, spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they follow Google’s dictates, nebulously sussed from Google’s secret algorithm, formatting their sites, even writing their articles a certain way, including certain words they might not choose if allowed to write freely, simply to please Google’s algorithm.

If Google doesn’t like a site (imagine a site that believes Google’s Android is a stolen product and says so repeatedly), Google can hurt that site by, say, excluding that site from the News tab on Google (since 2009), so that the site is more difficult to find, hurting that site’s traffic and ability to generate revenue. (Is there a lawsuit there? Someday we might find out.)

Hopefully, lawmakers can come together to figure out a way to do something to remedy the horribly uncompetitive situation in internet search. Google is, and has been for years, a perfect example of why antitrust laws exist.


  1. The only thing Apple gets wrong is taking money (10-12 billion per year) from Google and letting them have a default position on the iPhone, and that includes letting them camp out in the app store, nothing good long will come out of it. particularity for other developers.

    1. Oh, they did. Jeff Bezos got grilled too for some very nasty business practices. Facebook was pilloried too. Apple got off light by some Democrats who’ve obviously never run a business or worked in any kind of retail store. Their questions made it obvious they had no clue about costs and retail overhead as they focused on the Apple App Store which they claimed was a monopoly, and the supposed non-competition of Apple’s own 60 apps also being on the App Store, due to the App Store being Apple’s monopoly.

  2. The politicians did a decent job at grilling them and it was one of the few times in a recent memory that I saw divided Americans somewhat united (in the chatroom of 40k that I was watching in anyway).

    In terms of ‘performance’ (because lets face it, they were all BS’ing and lying out their teeth), Sundar Pichai was the absolute worst, a complete embarrassment and definitely not built for this.

    1. The only CEO that did not dissemble was Apple’s Tim Cook. The others were dancing, trying to avoid answering direct questions. Cook answered questions as best he could. His only failing I thought was he did not explain that the either 30% or 15% commission that Apple portion of App sales from the paying apps was not entirely profit, but rather the cost of maintaining the App Store, the point of purchase software (it cost money to buy using credit/debit cards), support, cost of servers and bandwidth to send the app to the customers, and being able to market their apps on the store. If he had merely said that, just once, the issue would have gone away.

  3. When there are (or were) dozens of search engines on the market and one of them acquires an 80% market share in a free market, one might want to consider that customers are picking that product because they regard it as better for their use-case than the alternatives. One might not want to impose the socialist “solution” of deliberately hobbling the winner so that it is no longer any better than its competitors.

    Instead, one might want to encourage the competitors to do better so that they can win market share in a free market, making the average user experience better rather than worse. When there are voices blaming the winners for succeeding, rather than the losers for failing, it removes any incentive to provide a better product.

    1. Free and open markets are the foundation of a vibrant economy. Aggressive competition among sellers in an open marketplace gives consumers — both individuals and businesses — the benefits of lower prices, higher quality products and services, more choices, and greater innovation. The FTC’s competition mission is to enforce the rules of the competitive marketplace — the antitrust laws. These laws promote vigorous competition and protect consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices. The FTC’s Bureau of Competition, working in tandem with the Bureau of Economics, enforces the antitrust laws for the benefit of consumers.

      U.S. Federal Trade Commission

      If Google is indeed blocking from appearing under the Google “News” tab, where many similar sites, including blogs (many of which that do far less and offer far less value than MDN), currently appear because MDN is critical of Google and/or Android, then Google has violated U.S. antitrust law.

    2. You don’t want to mistake a search engine for a platform. You can use practically any browser (platform) to access any search engine (vendor). You can easily switch ‘vendors’, not so with Apple’s exclusive ‘vendor’ model.

      Agreed that competitors be encouraged to do better to vend products for your platform, but that is difficult to do if that competition is not allowed in the first place.

      1. That may be an argument for the decline of Google as a ‘monopoly’ as people concerned with that particular feature move away to other search engines.

        Actually, the inquiry may need more than market share to prove a monopoly as many use multiple search engines in the course of finding things on the Internet. Flipped, this may also lead to forcing Apple’s hand which currently requires all browsers on iOS to use Webkit.

    3. Fair enough, as long as the dominant company rose to that leadership by merit and not by chicanery.

      There is a bias in this country in which the powerful and wealthy are assumed to have risen to that state by talent, merit, and hard work. As the old commercial states, “They earned it.” And that is undoubtedly true for many people. But there are also a fair number who repeatedly violated laws to amass power and wealth. You can find many examples “serving” in our current Federal government. And by “serving,” I mean serving themselves to current and future riches at the expense of other Americans.

      Google is that type of company. They read your emails, track your web activities, and aggregate data on you to the point that they know you better than you know yourself. Eric T. Mole spied within Apple and basically stole to create Android years earlier than it would have otherwise been created. Google has intentionally and egregiously violated Apple’s rules on multiple occasions, including inserting tracking code to bypass Apple’s personal privacy protections for its clients. These were not “accidents.” They were intentional and corrupt. The problem is, they worked and resulted in very few repercussions, as so many wealthy people have discovered to their delight.

      There are the rules for most of us. There are separate rules for the powerful and wealthy who are able to bend or buy justice at need.

  4. How is the following in contrast to a free market?

    “One might not want to impose the socialist “solution” of deliberately hobbling the winner so that it is no longer any better than its competitors.”

    Scrutinize their following of the law as stated and if, indeed they are manipulating in contrast to the law, ding them for that and not just because their tech is winning and bringing challenge to competitors.

  5. So where is the predatory monopoly? Certainly not at Apple. Bezos’ Amazon with its serial undercutting is the best candidate of all. Microsoft is second.

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