Antitrust

Orrin Hatch Wants the FTC to Investigate Google

Hatch's letter to FTC Commissioner Joseph Simons comes amid President Trump's attacks on the search giant.

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Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/Newscom

Sen. Orrin Hatch said today he wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate possible antitrust violations by Google. In a letter addressed to FTC Commissioner Joseph Simons, the Utah Republican, who is retiring at the end of the year, expresses "concern" regarding "Google's search and digital advertising practices."

Hatch cites a 60 Minutes report from May highlighting Google's promotion of its own services in search results. He also says he is worried by allegations that Android, which is owned by Google, collects Gmail users' data and provides "third-party app developers access to the actual content of emails."

The FTC has previously investigated Google on multiple occasions. In 2010, the commission looked into whether Google's acquisition of the mobile advertising network company AdMob would hurt competition. The FTC ended up closing that investigation after concluding that Apple was "poised to become a strong competitor in the mobile advertising market."

According to Hatch, "that belief never became a reality." Instead, his letter says, "Google's position throughout the ad market…has become more dominant." In addition to dominating the ad market, Hatch claims, Google "accumulates data at essentially every step."

In January 2013, the FTC closed another investigation into Google, focusing on how it promotes its own services, rather than third-party information, in search results. The FTC said Google's practices improved its users' experiences. "Any negative impact on actual or perceived competitors was incidental to that purpose," the commision said.

As Hatch notes, however, Google promised in December 2012 that "it would take certain actions for five years to address" concerns related to its search result practices. Since 2013, Hatch says, Google has instead changed its search page in a way that's "harmed consumers." He also notes that the search engine market has changed a lot in recent years, particularly as more people use their phones to surf the web. "In light of all of these changes," he writes, "I respectfully request that the FTC consider the competitive effects of Google's conduct in search and digital advertising."

Hatch's letter comes as Google has caught the ire of President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday accused the company of doctoring its search results so people see only negative news about him. Trump called it a "very serious situation" that "will be addressed," although it's not clear how. When asked about possible regulation of Google's search results, Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, responded, "We're taking a look at it."

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  1. There are no good guys in this story. Big government authoritarians trying to regulate speech vs. corporations fraudulently holding themselves out as neutral platforms.

    This fight is force vs. fraud and no matter who wins, free speech loses.

    1. Well said, unfortunately.

  2. A politician looking into allegations of widespread customer abuse and anti-competitive behavior is not against the rules unless we’re anarchists.

    Are y’all anarchists now? Note that I am NOT going to object to this evolution, I’m just seeking clarity here.

    1. Some are, some aren’t. The “aren’t” tend to be noisier about it.

  3. In addition to dominating the ad market, Hatch claims, Google “accumulates data at essentially every step.”

    Yes, any organization that surreptitiously hoovers up data should be investigated.

    1. Especially organizations which haven’t sworn off evil.

      1. NSA hardest hit.

    2. Time for a US GDPR?

  4. Dick’s Sporting Goods Has a Fever, and the Only Cure is Getting Woker and Going Broker
    Corporations have become the primary threat to American freedom of thought and speech in the last decade. This is precisely because they finally realized that the left would rake them over the coals if they did not comply with the left’s demands, whereas they knew that pissing off the right was a zero-cost proposition, because all the right ever does is say stupid shit like “Corporations are people too, my friend” and press for corporate speech rights while treating citizen speech rights as a minor matter hardly worth the breath to mention.

    Corporations are now political actors, nearly as political as media organizations, and pretending that this isn’t so, dreaming of a Golden Age when corporations were either apolitical or even slightly rightist, doesn’t change the actual facts.

    1. But of course the Corporate Cons, who are by and large funded directly or indirectly by corporations and who are therefore paid to instruct conservatives to never challenge or criticize the corporations paying the Corporate Cons’ rent, will always scream bloody murder about this, because, well, they’re being paid to do so.

      Meanwhile, big corporations are also stuffing the left’s pockets full of lobbying money, too, but they never demand the left refrain from pressuring and threatening them.

      They only make that demand of the right, because they know only the right is stupid enough to accede to such browbeating by those higher than themselves in the skull-fucked Conservative Hierarchy.

    2. Stock is up 35% over the last 12 months. We should all have such problems.

      1. Well being that it lost almost half of it’s value since the end of 2016. It’s not a problem that I would want to have.

        1. Just to clarify, The almost half is in relation to the level before it made the 35% gain.

        2. It was 59.07 on Nov 30 2016. Now it’s 36.19. Again, not a problem I would want to have.

          What happened to make the stock drop?

          1. Amazon. Walmart. The big drop was well before the gun policy.

            Big 5 was $19 in November 2016. Now it’s $5.70.

          2. Whats Dicks sporting goods?

      2. Stock is up 35% over the last 12 months

        Sounds like their stock bump didn’t have anything to do with their gun policy, either.

  5. An oldie but a goodie:

    How Hatch forced Microsoft to play K Street’s game

    ” If you want to get involved in business,” Sen. Orrin Hatch warned technology companies at a conference in 2000, “you should get involved in politics.”

    Hatch was referring to the shortcomings of then-software king Microsoft, which he had spent most of the previous decade harassing from his perch as Judiciary Committee chairman. The message was clear: If you become successful, you must hire lobbyists, you must start a political action committee, and you must donate to politicians. Otherwise Washington will make your life very difficult.

    1. What Google is doing in China is disturbing. Big business will never oppose an intrusive all powerful state- they would gladly support it

    2. They already have a censored search engine.

      *boom*

      I’m here all week.

  6. can they both lose?

  7. I can’t think of a single time in my life Republicans weren’t whining about how mean and unfair the media, academia, hollywood, science, journalism, and tech were to them instead of accomplishing things. It’s a strategy, I guess. Make America pussies who act like toddlers for tax cuts!

    1. A progressive whining about Republicans whining is some next level gas lighting

      1. “I don’t want to hit you, baby, you just make me so mad sometimes.”

      2. But that wasn’t whining, it was describing. Do I want them to stop being pussies and start actually competing in the marketplace of ideas instead of trying to annoy all of their critics to death with their incessant bitching? I don’t give a fuck. They’re all corrupt idiots.

        1. It appears that this marketplace of ideas is engaging in protectionist policies against the Party that supports protectionist policies. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.

          1. Which party would that be? Protectionism is a bit of a hot potato lately.

            1. Depends on what card game you’re playing. Could be spades. Could be hearts.


        2. But that wasn’t whining, it was describing.

          I laughed.

          1. Yeah, that was pretty funny.

      1. I’m down with the antitrust thing, but I thought the idea was that that’s a fig leaf for going after one of Trump’s countless enemies.

        1. I’m guessing Orrin Hatch isn’t really into doing Trump’s bidding. The moment Hatch sees a dominant player in the market- especially in the tech market, he tends to pounce.

          1. he tends to pounce.

            Pouncing is what conservatives DO.

  8. Orrin Hatch is like a crazy grandpa, but with authoritarianism in his pocket instead of hard candy

    1. He’ll spend about ten years and a few dozen billion litigating this, and then around the time everyone agrees to some kind of token settlement, Google will no longer be a dominant player.

      Sure, Hatch, spike the football because Microsoft will let you uninstall the browser now. Because the internet browser IS the Internet.


      1. He’ll spend about ten years and a few dozen billion litigating this

        Well, assuming he lives that long anyway…

      2. That’s kind of the point. Don’t let the companies use monopoly power, and competitors come up and innovate.

  9. Microsoft must be laughing right now.

  10. Just another chapter in right-wing, big-government authoritarianism and low-grade partisan polemics, with an appendix of conservative whining.

  11. I remember back in the 90s when my tech cohorts kept trying to tech-splain to me that the desktop operating system isn’t like a regular market.

  12. Who’s the most important man this country ever knew?

    Who’s the man our presidents tell all their troubles to?

    No, it isn’t Mr. Bryan and it isn’t Mr. Hughes;

    I’m mighty proud that I’m allowed a chance to introduce:

    Barney Google?with the goo, goo, googly eyes,Barney Google

    bet his horse would win the prize;

    When the horses ran that day,Spark Plug ran the other way!

    Barney Google?with the goo-goo-googly eyes!

    Who’s the greatest lover that this country ever knew?

    Who’s the man that Valentino takes his hat off to?

    No, it isn’t Douglas Fairbanks that the ladies rave about;

    When he arrives, who makes the wives chase all their husbands out?

    Barney Google?with the goo-goo-googly eyes

    Barney Google?had a wife three times his size;

    She sued Barney for divorce,Now he’s sleeping with his horse!

    Barney Google?with the goo-goo-googly eyes!

  13. If the point is how Google abuses their market power, they should also investigate the Google Play Store. Refusing the Gab ap is purely content based discrimination.

    1. Corporations are purely economic actors. They only do what they think makes money. They would never act based on purely political whims and suppress / oppress people, because they are holy and sacrosanct. Only governments do that, because governments are evil.

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