Republican Senator Josh Hawley continues to closely scrutinize the behavior of giant tech companies – and not only their present actions but also those from the past that tie into the problem.
The impression given by most media in their coverage of Big Tech transgressions is that they somehow started happening circa 2016, and have only been getting worse. But as Hawley’s letter to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds us, there is a “rich” history here, especially when it comes to Google.
In the letter the senator is urging the FTC to make public its 2012 report into Google’s antitrust violations.
Specifically, the report from seven years ago deals with the ways Google was allegedly skewing its powerful search results to favor its own products and services and undermine competition. But only one half of the report was published in 2015, and Hawley is now pressing for the entire document to become publicly available.
What has already been revealed is that Google’s internal documents showed the company admitting to tweaking the search engine “to bias ourselves.”
Hawley is now convinced that the rest of the findings might show that the giant has been misleading and deceiving customers for a long time when it comes to the way its search technology works – in the process stifling competition.
This included blacklisting results unfavorable to its interests, striking exclusive deals with publishers, and undermining competition by deliberately demoting their links.
“The report provides evidence that Google was deceiving consumers before 2012, and the recent fines levied against Google suggest that Google never stopped,” Hawley writes.
This type of accusation against Google is not only long-standing, but somewhat universal: in addition to the US, the company was also investigated in the EU, and ordered to pay $2.7 for anti-competitive search results manipulation, the senator recalled in his letter.
The letter comes as pressure is mounting in the US on Google on antitrust grounds. US State Attorneys General on Monday initiated a large-scale bipartisan probe against the tech giant. The investigation hopes to establish whether Google is manipulating search results to harm competition and customers.
And given Google’s status, that could be a serious problem. The company now “dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet,” as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton put it.
Read Hawley’s full letter to the FTC here.