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US regulators target Google in anti-trust inquiry

Does Google skew its search results to promote its own products at the expense of others? The FTC wants to find out.

Image: Virginia Mayo/AP

US FEDERAL REGULATORS have begun a formal anti-trust investigation into Google’s business practices.

In a blog post posted this afternoon, the Internet search giant said it received notification from the Federal Trade Commission of the review yesterday.

Google said “it’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are.”

The inquiry is expected to focus in large part on whether Google abuses its dominance of Internet search to extend its influence into other lucrative online markets, such as mapping, comparison shopping and travel.

Rivals complain that Google – which handles two out of every three Internet searches in the US – manipulates its results to steer users to its own sites and services, and bury links to competitors.

The European Commission and the Texas attorney general have already opened investigations into whether Google uses its enormous clout as a major gateway to the Internet to stifle competition online.

The US Senate’s Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust subcommittee is also examining whether Google gives its own services favourable treatment in search results.

Google maintains that most of the accusations of anticompetitive behavior come not from users, who like its services, but from competitors that are not pleased with their search rankings.

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“Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow,” the company said in its blog post.

We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience… Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.

Google’s shares fell by about 1.2 per cent on the news.

AP

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