Now this is what getting Scroogled really looks like. The Federal Trade Commission accidentally sent The Wall Street Journal a copy of its report into Google’s alleged abuse of its power as the world’s most dominant search engine and it contains some truly explosive allegations.
The biggest one is that Google allegedly stole content from rival Internet companies such as Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor and then threatened to remove them from its search results if they kept complaining about it.
Specifically, the Journal says the report found Google “illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. to improve its own websites,” including an instance in which “Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items.”
All the companies involved backed down, however, once Google made its threat to remove them from search listings. And it’s easy to understand why: Remember that when Google punished Rap Genius for trying to game its SEO system, the website’s traffic plunged from around 1.5 million unique users per day all the way down to around 250,000 unique users per day over the span of just a few days.
In its report, the FTC said Google was using “its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations,” which would definitely seem to contradict the company’s “don’t be evil” mantra.
Let’s be clear: This is the sort of behavior where if Comcast did it, we’d all be howling for antitrust regulators to break up the company. If the allegations against Google are true, then the company has for years been committing flat-out extortion of its rivals and has abused its power to maintain its hold on the online search market.
Google has always argued that it can’t be a monopoly because competition is one click away. I tend to agree with that, which is why I’ll be dumping Google as my default search provider and working as much as I can through Firefox and Yahoo. This sucks in a lot of ways because I’ve always liked Google’s services but at the same time, I don’t want to support a company that thinks it’s perfectly okay to steal from others and then issue threats when they get called out on it.
Google right now is way too powerful and it could stand to be cut down a few notches. If the company wants to win me back, then it will need to actually put some work into not being evil.