Republican senator plans to keep pressure on Google after FTC probe results in no real punishment
By End the Lie
As I reported yesterday, Google’s $25 million lobbying effort seems to have paid off in full after an almost two-year probe by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) resulted in what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Now Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, said he plans to continue to keep putting pressure on Google as the FTC probe fell far short of the mark.
Lee is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, the subcommittee responsible for not only providing oversight of antitrust and competition policy laws but also oversight of the antitrust enforcement policies of the Department of Justice and the FTC as well.
While Lee – along with every other senator – is not worthy of blind praise after voting for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 which was recently signed by Obama and which makes it even easier to indefinitely detain Americans, at least we can say he is doing something.
That being said, at least Lee voted against H.R. 4310, the Conference Report on the 2013 NDAA, along with 6 other Republicans, 6 Democrats and 1 Independent for a total of merely 14 votes against the final version of the legislation.
Lee said that the voluntary commitments made by Google to the FTC are an “important step in the right direction,” according to the Hill, although he added that the FTC did not address many of his concerns about the business practices of Google.
“We will continue to work with antitrust authorities to help ensure robust competition in the Internet search arena so that consumer welfare is maximized,” Lee said in a statement.
While the Hill points out that Lee is one of the most conservative senators, “he has long advocated for tough government action against Google for restricting competition.”
The FTC’s decision was unanimous and as I outlined in my recent article, the commission took no action against Google whatsoever on the most major issue involved in the investigation, namely, whether Google manipulates search results to the detriment of competitors and to their benefit.
“Along with the FTC, our subcommittee will seek to make certain that Google abides by these common-sense commitments,” said Lee.
Lee also added that he is committed to “helping ensure that standard-essential patents are not abused in an anticompetitive manner,” referring to a separate but related FTC investigation which concluded that Google was abusing patents and was unduly aggressive in suing competitors.
Google agreed to first go through the process of third-party mediation before they can sue competitors over the use of technologies they acquired after purchasing Motorola Mobility.
Yet it is not just Lee who expressed some disappointment over the FTC’s decision.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is “disappointed” that the FTC allowed Google to merely make voluntary commitments instead of actually requiring a binding legal order.
Unsurprisingly, not all were critical of the decision, especially those who represent the Silicon Valley area.
“A pair of House members representing high-tech constituents in Northern California, including Google, praised the FTC’s conclusion that Google’s search algorithms were primarily meant to improve the customer experience and not favor its content for anticompetitive purposes,” notes John Eggerton of Multichannel.
Eggerton is referring to Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both Democrats, who held that the FTC was in the right.
“Following its investigation, the FTC’s settlement with Google strikes an appropriate balance that protects consumers and preserves innovation,” Eshoo said, according to Multichannel.
“Furthermore, despite a thorough investigation into allegations of search bias, the FTC ultimately decided against taking action that could hinder innovation and consumer choice,” Eshoo continued. “I applaud this decision, which recognizes the evolving Internet search market and the exciting innovations that have been the hallmark of the Internet to date.”
“I’m pleased the FTC chose to complete its investigation of Google’s search practices with an enforceable agreement to protect consumers without impermissibly expanding the jurisdictional reach of the FTC,” Lofgren said.
These types of statements are hardly surprising given that both Lofgren and Eshoo receive much of their campaign funds from technology companies.
However, this was a tiny part of their greater lobbying effort explained in yesterday’s article.
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