Is Google Playing Fair With Its Search Results? Allegations against Google claim the company puts its own results at the top search results — helping its business and hurting competitors. But Google denies that it tips the scales in its favor, adding if consumers don't like the results they can look elsewhere.

Is Google Playing Fair With Its Search Results?

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Melissa Block. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


BLOCK: As NPR's Nina Gregory reports, when it comes to policing monopolies it's not the size that matters.

NINA GREGORY: It is not illegal for a company to have a monopoly. What experts say is illegal is how a company uses its monopoly.

BLOCK: Have they unfairly excluded competitors in a way that will hurt consumers?

GREGORY: Bob Lande is a director at the American Antitrust Institute, a nonprofit research group. He's watching the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of Google closely.

BLOCK: Google has this enormous power, and they have the incentive to unfairly exclude competitors in a way that could harm consumers. And the FTC wants to see whether this has happened.

GREGORY: Matt Cutts is a software engineer at Google and explains that search is no longer relegated to just search engines.

BLOCK: You can go online and ask your friends - whether on Twitter or Facebook - you know, hey, I need a recommendation for a good bicycle, or something like that. It's not probably always going to be about the Web. It might be, you know, bringing in things like social. It might be bringing in trusted experts.

GREGORY: Gary Reback is an antitrust attorney in the Silicon Valley. He's credited with spearheading the government's massive antitrust case against Microsoft in the '90s. He says in the case of Google, the government is also investigating whether the search engine unfairly puts its own results at the top. For example, say you Googled "map of Pasadena," a Google map might come up above MapQuest.

BLOCK: The allegation is that Google brings its own results up to the top of the search results, making them more visible and more valuable than competitors who actually would score higher on the normal relevance tests Google uses to rank search results.

GREGORY: Google denies that it tips the scales in favor of itself. One of the many companies that disagrees is the online travel company Robert Birge is the company's chief marketing officer.

BLOCK: We believe there's a very compelling case that Google is abusing its dominant position in search to stifle competition and to extend its control over how information and commerce flows over the Internet.

GREGORY: He offers an example. Say you want to go to Tahiti.

BLOCK: I think what would happen, you know, if you search for hotels from Tahiti, you're going to see a number of search results that appear to be unbiased search results from the Google search engine, when in fact they're part of a new product that Google has launched in the last year that's their own product and is based on what advertisers are paying them.

GREGORY: Nina Gregory, NPR News.

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