During Wednesday’s hearing on antitrust technology, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) outperformed Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the company’s dominance in its search and use of data to monitor being competitors.
“It’s Google’s business model that’s the problem,” Cicilline said, alleging an anti-competitive behavior pattern that allowed Google to grow while small businesses were crushed. “Our documents show that Google has evolved from turning to the rest of the web to a walled garden that always keeps users on its sites.”
Cicilline quoted specific emails from “more than a decade ago”; between Google employees discussing growing sites and traffic. Employees’ fears of competition from certain websites [and] web pages that can divert search traffic and revenue from Google, “Cicilline alleged.
For years, companies like Yelp have accused Google of stealing their content in the search, diverting clicks from their own sites and to Google. According to Cicilline, the committee’s investigation shows that when Yelp raised these concerns with the company, Google threatened to eliminate the website until its content was released.
Hearing Papers on “Online Platforms and Market Power: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google” pic.twitter.com/O50aFmg2kd
– Dems House Judiciary (@HouseJudiciary) July 29, 2020
“Isn’t that anti-competitive?” Cicilline asked Pichai.
Pichai did not address the concerns of the competition clearly and replied, “When I run the company, I am really focused on giving users what they want. We run ourselves to the highest standard.”
Google is already under various formal antitrust investigations by law enforcement. Both the Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general are involved in tech giant probes, and California opened its own antitrust investigation into the company earlier this month.
Cicilline specifically cited small business interviews and emails between Google employees suggesting that the company use web traffic monitoring knowledge to identify potential competitors and boost its own sites and products. in search.
“These documents show that Google staff discussed the ‘proliferation threat’ that these web pages bring. Any lost traffic to other sites was a loss of revenue,” Cicilline said.
On Tuesday, The Markup released a report suggesting that Google prioritizes its own products and services in a significant portion of links on the first page of search results.
The last half of Cicilline’s interrogation has delved into Google’s surveillance abilities on web traffic to identify incoming and outgoing competitors. Cicilline immediately asked, “Has Google ever used its monitoring of web traffic to identify competitive threats?”
Pichai did not deny the allegation directly. “Congressman, just like other businesses we try to understand the trends from the data, that you know, that we can see, and use it to improve our products for users.”