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One of the hottest topics in the digital world this past week has been the allegations of antitrust behaviors made against Google. While the tech giant has faced similar accusations in the past, the conversation was reignited when 60 Minutes ran a special on the topic focused on the company.
Antitrust allegations are nothing to be taken lightly. If an investigation is launched, and evidence is found then it could force Google to be broken up. This development would have stunning effects on the internet as a whole, and specifically the digital advertising world.
So what are the antitrust allegations, what would the consequences be, and should you be worried about the outcome either way? Let’s take a look at these questions and more.
Antitrust – Laws Set In Place To Keep Capitalism Alive
Antitrust is a term that is thrown around frequently. Most people are familiar with the word when it involves a company becoming a monopoly.
When a company becomes so large in a specific industry it makes it impossible for any competitors to gain a foothold, and therefore competition dies off, effectively killing capitalist ideals. But antitrust laws are more than just monopoly busting.
“It seems that whenever a company reaches a certain level of success, they are perceived as a monopoly.”
Antitrust laws also involve protecting companies and consumers from anti-competition measures taken by large companies. This is why Google is making headlines this week. Since Google has an incredible dominance over the search engine market, it also theoretically can shape users’ web experience by filtering search page results.
This means that Google can theoretically make sure a consumer sees their services before any of their competitors, giving them an edge over any competition. Services like Yelp and Amazon are forced to work with Google while simultaneously competing against the giant. If Google promotes its services above those of its competition on results pages, that is anti-competition and antitrust behavior.
Trouble In The EU: Yelp vs. Google
Recently Yelp has launched antitrust complaints in the EU against Google for pushing their listings lower and forcing consumers to use Google’s local service offers. In a statement released to Cnet, Yelp explained that this is destroying competition and negatively affecting consumers. Mainly because Google has monetized advertising as an option on their local services, whereas Yelp does not give companies an option to boost their ranking through paid services.
Therefore, if a consumer is seeing Google’s results first, and then relies solely on them, they are not getting an accurate and honest picture of companies which offer the services they are seeking. Someone might be searching for a doctor and come across Google suggestions which have been monetarily boosted by business owners before finding “more reliable” content and reviews from an objective content aggregator such as Yelp.
Google has already been slammed for antitrust and anti-competition behaviors by the EU parliament and fined almost 3 billion dollars. It has since repealed this ruling in hopes of at the very least lessening fines. With this new complaint though, not only is their appeal in jeopardy, but also their standing in the European Union.
Trouble In America: The Justice Department’s Strong Rhetoric
It is not just the European Union that Google is currently struggling with either. As mentioned before, 60 Minutes ran an expose of sorts on Google this past week, which spurred comments from the Justice Department. In short, the DoJ said, that at the very least, they need to investigate potential antitrust violations from the tech giant.
Now it is worth remembering that the government does not have the best grasp on the tech sector. This can be summed up by the way they handled the Cambridge Analytica scandal and subsequent cringe-worthy Zuckerberg Congressional testimony. So while Google is on the government’s radar, those in the industry are speaking out in favor of the company.
There is an issue with antitrust laws in the present day. It seems that whenever a company reaches a certain level of success, they are perceived as a monopoly. But just because a company is massive by all standards does not mean they are inherently violating antitrust laws. This is the case with Google. Sure the tech giant is near omnipresent when it comes to the digital realm, but their incredible success does not necessarily equate to anti-competition behavior.
What To Expect In The Future
Worst Case Scenario
Let’s say that Google is found in violation of US antitrust laws, let’s also take it a step further and say the company is forced to break up. What will that look like for digital advertisers? In short, it will wreak havoc.
While SEO and SEM techniques will remain mostly the same, Google may be forced change its algorithms to an almost communistic extreme. Where they are forced to give all companies and competitors equal opportunity to reach the top spot. Yeah, that means continuously rotating search engine results pages. Rankings might start to have no meaning.
The Expected Outcome
While there is a small possibility that the government might crack down hard on Google, it is much more likely the company will escape with little harm. This is because Google knows precisely the cases that are made against it. They have a legal team that makes even the government shutter. They are also ten steps ahead of the government when it comes to the digital marketplace.
For these reasons, in addition to the idea that Google is not anti-competition, but just enormous, it is a much more reasonable assumption to make that Google will make through this process relatively unscathed. Even if in the short term Google is in the spotlight of Trump’s attempt to crackdown on massive tech companies, they know how to play ball with the best of them.
More On Google
Last week a 2016 internal communication from Google was leaked to the public. It involved a future initiative Google is working towards called The Selfish Ledger. Check out our Vlog about this and what it could mean for life as we know it moving forward.