In early 2013, Google dodged a major bullet in the U.S. as FTC commissioners looking into its Internet search practices voted unanimously not to pursue the antitrust investigation. But now it looks like The Wall Street Journal inadvertently discovered that Google actually may have been guilty of favoring its own services in search results, all while pressuring rivals in the process.
According to an internal 160-page FTC report looking at Google Search practices that was released to the Journal following a Freedom of Information Act request, FTC staffers found that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”
Even so, the commissioners disregarded this particular report, focusing more on a separate one that came from the agency’s economic bureau, which didn’t suggest that legal action against the search giant was in order.
The internal FTC report found that Google used its position to help its own business and hurt rivals in at least three search-related areas. These include scraping content from competing sites, restricting advertisers’ options for ad campaigns on other search platforms, and blocking websites that publish Google ads from working with rivals.
The report also found Google’s search tactics to be anticompetitive, but recommended against a lawsuit on that matter as well.
The Commission’s report said that Google’s search policies “helped it to maintain, preserve and enhance Google’s monopoly position in the markets for search and search advertising,” and that its behavior “will have lasting negative effects on consumer welfare.”
The FTC is not the only regulatory body that has investigated Google. A similar investigation is underway in Europe, where Google has not been able to escape it yet.
A graphic showing a brief summary the questions at hand in the FTC investigation, the internal findings, the public response of the FTC and Google’s response, as well as an image showing excerpts from the 160-page report follow below.
A significantly more detailed look at how Google made sure its services outrank rivals in search, how it copied content from rival sites, and how it pressured rivals into backing down can be found down in our source section. You’ll also find details regarding what Google did to fix some of the issues in order to avoid further FTC scrutiny.