Google confirmed that the FTC is looking into its business. The WSJ reported that the probe had to do with antitrust concerns about Google search.
On its blog, Google said it recognized that our success has led to greater scrutiny. That's an understatement if ever there was one.
Google is the most important portal of the Internet. It's the tool most people use most often to access information online. Google is the most visited website in the US and captures 85 percent of the US search traffic.
This level of success has indeed drawn scrutiny.
In the FTC's case, the WSJ reported that the probe is regarding the way Google search ranks its own services. For example, if Google ranks Gmail the highest for the query email, Gmail will gain an unfair advantage over other email service providers (this would only appy if Gmail isn't truthfully the most relevant result for email).
Hypothetically, if Google were to open a random business (say a restaurant in NYC) and rank it first for a key search term (restaurant nyc), Google search can virtually guarantee its success.
Google probably doesn't manually manipulate its result. But what if its internal services are just really good at Google search engine optimization? What if their funds for Google search advertising is unlimited?
The FTC isn't the only one who's concerned. One issue raised by Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org is that Google filters information for individual users based on their demographics, search history, and click history.
The search results people receive, therefore, is biased towards reinforcing what they already like and believe. For example, if a conservative always clicks on FoxNews and conservative-slanting articles, Google would conceivably serve them more conservative-slanting content.
Pariser also claimed that Google might be elevating the status of information junk food. People tend to immediately click on and link to sensational content. They may be less likely to do so for serious-minded, dense, but important content. By Google's algorithms, the sensational content may get more play.
There are other questions, too. What about public service announcements? The equal-time rule? How about a forced split-up (ABC was spun off from NBC on antitrust grounds)?
In short, should Google be held to the same standards as the Big Three Television Networks from the 1950s to the 1980s?
Whatever the case, Google is right about one thing. Its dominance of the Internet has certainly led to greater scrutiny.