The Washington Post is reporting that “the Justice Department has begun meeting with companies that long have accused Google of illegally skewing its search results,” and has “met with at least two companies in recent weeks.”
The fact that the DoJ is taking meetings while the FTC’s Google investigation is still underway is, as the Post says, a clear sign that companies are “losing faith that the Federal Trade Commission will act forcefully on their complaints.”
Who could be meeting with the DoJ? Well, take a number.
Both Nextag CEO Jeff Katz and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman testified at a Google antitrust hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights in September 2011. Microsoft likewise filed its first ever antitrust complaint with the European Union against Google in 2011. Expedia followed suit earlier this year, as did TripAdvisor and the French search company 1plusV.
And the newspaper world is littered with publications that have been put on the auction block after Google decimated their bottom lines — leaving Rupert Murdoch to fly behind Google and expand his empire by picking the bones of their carrion.
In short, there’s no dearth of of suspects.
But the fact that any company is meeting with the DoJ means the FTC should be hanging its head in shame.
The fact that anybody is even seriously considering Joshua Wright for a role as a Commissioner is a sure sign the FTC has lost the plot. Wright declared that the CPFB’s agenda was “aggressive and dangerous,”,and said “its existence likely to do more harm than good to consumers.” And because he has literally been on the Google Think Tank dole for years, he’ll have to recuse himself from any deliberation of the world’s biggest monopoly for two years.
Woodrow Wilson launched the FTC in 1915 to promote consumer protection and eliminate anti-competitive business practices. It was considered a key achievement of the progressive era. The modern FTC, however, objectively failed to protect consumer privacy when they gave Google the data stolen from up to 190 million Safari users. If they fail to take action against the biggest and most aggressive monopoly of our time, one has to wonder what relevance they have in the digital age.