End the Lie

Google escaped FTC antitrust probe with a slap on the wrist, only cost around $25 million

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By End the Lie

(Image credit: The Next Web)

(Image credit: The Next Web)

The search engine giant with an intimate government relationship – which never has to be made public, thanks to an appeals court – has been let off with a slap on the wrist after a nearly two-year Federal Trade Commission (FTC) probe, and it only cost around $25 million in lobbying.

While that might sound like a large sum to you, as The Next Web points out, “a company with cash and equivalents of roughly $50 billion, had to spend just 0.05% of its ready currency to fend of what could have been a nearly existential threat to parts of its core business.”

In other words, it is chump change for Google considering the FTC “decided not to challenge the company’s dominance of the Internet search business in court and settled the investigation with what critics allege is a slap on the wrist,” according to Politico.

The results of the FTC probe were indeed a far cry from harsh given that they were simply left with “a voluntary pledge to change some search and ad business practices and a legal agreement to stop using patents as weapons against foes,” as Politico reports.

According to Politico this was accomplished by getting close to the Obama administration, hiring influential Republicans and former regulators, consulting with the late Robert Bork and even Senator John Kerry.

In addition, they teamed up with the conservative Heritage Foundation and liberal Eugene Volokh along with David Balto, a former FTC staffer.

These alliances “helped raise public doubts about an antitrust probe of a company that had received praise in the president’s State of the Union address. The company also flew in its billionaire impresarios from Silicon Valley for meetings on Capitol Hill and at the FTC.”

This victory is quite major for Google since they will not face any kind of “search neutrality” requirement, as competitors like Microsoft had hoped while also never having to reveal exactly how they order search results.

“The company also avoided a so-called ‘consent decree’ about its search practices; these decrees set out what the agency thinks a company has done wrong and how it must behave in the future,” notes Gigaom.

“As for the patent issue, it was just a sideshow that has little effect on Google’s core business or strategy,” they add.

In other words, Google essentially got off scot-free thanks to heavy lobbying. While this is obviously a far cry from what the FTC is supposed to do and how a truly just government would operate, it really is to be expected at this point.

As The Next Web rightly puts it, “Google’s victory is almost banal, in a way, as it is sordidly normal; spend, and win. This is not to say that Google’s action were unethical in any way, they were in fact perfectly above board by our country’s current standards.”

UPDATE: Despite finding some evidence that changes to the company’s search algorithm harmed competitors, the Commission said that these changes “could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users,” according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

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One Response to Google escaped FTC antitrust probe with a slap on the wrist, only cost around $25 million

  1. Anonymous January 4, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    sickening. total corporatocracy. crony capitalism at its best. or worse.


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