Google hits back against anti-trust complaints

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google is fighting back against an anti-trust inquiry ordered by Texas' attorney general, saying that some of the companies making complaints have links to Microsoft.

The review centers on whether Google's closely-guarded algorithm for generating search results is genuinely impartial, or whether it's manipulated to hamper competition.

But Google says it's confident that it can demonstrate that it acts in the best interests of its users.

"The important thing to remember is that we built Google to provide the most useful, relevant search results and ads for users. In other words, our focus is on users, not websites," says deputy general counsel Don Harrison.

"Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it’s unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking."

Harrison goes on to comment on some of the organizations that have complained. Top of the list is Foundem - a British price comparison site owned by a Microsoft-funded organization - which has complained that Google's algorithm demotes its site.

But, says Harrison, other competitors such as Amazon, Shopping.com and Expedia typically rank very highly - it's just that Foundem is a bit rubbish.

"Various experts have taken a closer look at the quality of Foundem’s website, and New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann concluded, 'I want Google to be able to rank them poorly'," he says.

SourceTool - owned by TradeComet - had a private anti-trust lawsuit against Google dismissed earlier this year. And as for myTriggers, says Harrison, its sudden fall in traffic wasn't caused by any change in its ad ratings, but by its own servers overheating.

Both organizations, he says, are being represented by Microsoft's own antitrust attorneys.

European regulators are already investigating allegations that Google has artificially manipulated search results to favor its own services, and it's also been the subject of several related lawsuits in the US.