Dominating Search: Google Before the Law
Rene Konig and Miriam Rasch (eds), INC Reader #9 Society of the Query: Reflections on Web Search, Amsterdam, Institute of Network Cultures, 86-104 (2014)
21 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2014
Date Written: April 25, 2014
For many, particularly in the Anglophone world and Western Europe, it may be obvious that Google has a monopoly over online search and advertising and that this is an undesirable state of affairs, due to Google's ability to mediate information flows online. The baffling question may be why governments and regulators are doing little to nothing about this situation, given the increasingly pivotal importance of the internet and free flowing communications in our lives. However, the law concerning monopolies, namely antitrust or competition law, works in what may be seen as a less intuitive way by the general public. Monopolies themselves are not illegal. Conduct that is unlawful, i.e. abuses of that market power, is defined by a complex set of rules and revolves principally around economic harm suffered due to anticompetitive behavior. However the effect of information monopolies over search, such as Google’s, is more than just economic, yet competition law does not address this. Furthermore, Google’s collection and analysis of user data and its portfolio of related services make it difficult for others to compete. Such a situation may also explain why Google’s established search rivals, Bing and Yahoo, have not managed to provide services that are as effective or popular as Google’s own (on this issue see also the texts by Dirk Lewandowski and Astrid Mager in this reader). Users, however, are not entirely powerless. Google's business model rests, at least partially, on them – especially the data collected about them. If they stop using Google, then Google is nothing.
Keywords: competition, antitrust, search engines, Google
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