Abbott investigating Google

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Sep 7, 2010


SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - Google's methods for recommending websites are being reviewed by Texas' attorney general in an investigation spurred by complaints that the company has abused its power as the Internet's most dominant search engine.

An antitrust inquiry was disclosed by Google late Friday. A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press, but has declined to comment further.

According to Google, the Attorney General's Office is seeking more information about allegations that have been levied against the company by UK-based Foundem, New York-based SourceTool and TradeComet, and Ohio-based myTriggers.

The review appears to be focused on whether Google is manipulating its search results to stifle competition.

The pecking order of those results can make or break websites because Google's search engine processes about two-thirds of the search requests in the U.S. and handles even more volume in some parts of the world.

According to the AP, European regulators already have been investigating complaints alleging that Google has been favoring its own services in its results instead of rival websites. Several lawsuits filed in the U.S. also have alleged Google's search formula is biased.

Google believes Abbott is the first state attorney general to open an antitrust review into the issue.

"We look forward to answering (Abbott's) questions because we're confident that Google operates in the best interests of our users," Don Harrison, Google's deputy general counsel, wrote in a Friday blog post.

Techdirt -- a blog looking at news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow -- calls the investigation "silly grandstanding."

"All three claim that they're competitors to Google, and Google is somehow trying to hold them down. This is, frankly, ridiculous. As has been explained over and over again, rankings are an opinion, protected by free speech rights. And, furthermore, if Google was really trying to keep competitors down, wouldn't it actually focus on players that actually matter in the space?"

Techdirt notes that all three of the companies have some sort of connection to Microsoft.

"None of the companies are based in Texas, and Google's not breaking any laws here," the blog said of the investigation.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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