DOJ preparing antitrust probe into Google search and business practices, report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 31
The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly preparing an antitrust investigation into Google's search and related business practices, with the probe coming years after the Federal Trade Commission closed its own probe into the internet giant with no tangible results.

Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies in front of a U.S. congressional panel in 2018.


Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports the DOJ's antitrust division has spent weeks readying an investigation into Google's practices, particularly as they relate to internet search and "other businesses."

Not much is known about the potential DOJ probe beyond its existence. While third parties have spoken to department officials, it is unknown if the agency has contacted Google or notified it of the coming scrutiny.

The FTC previously looked into Google's operations with an eye on antitrust issues in 2011, but closed the investigation in 2013 with little to show for its efforts. As noted by the report, Google did voluntarily modify certain business practices to remain in good standing with the commission, though the changes were far from substantial reform.

According to the report, the DOJ and FTC recently discussed who would supervise a new inquiry into Google, with the commission deciding to cede authority to the Justice Department.

While the nature of the investigation remains unknown, a negative outcome for Google could leave the search giant saddled with onerous regulatory burdens.

Google and CEO Sundar Pichai have recently touted efforts to protect consumer privacy in an attempt to counter public perception that the company exploits user data for financial gain. That road appears to be an uphill path, however, as Google continues to leverage user information for its bread-and-butter advertising solutions.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    claire1claire1 Posts: 510unconfirmed, member
    When will we punish Google for violating user privacy?
    dysamoriaolstulkascrossladwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 35
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 715member
    I'm interested in knowing whether Google and similar companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc) are subject to election spending laws when they make an effort to filter in or out certain political views. If traditional media have to be subjected to spending laws, then should Google also be subject? I sincerely don't know, and I would appreciate clarity from DOJ. If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses? If not, why should anyone else be subject to these laws? But if so, how is Google monitored for its bias? Do their filtering algorithms need to be examined by the government?
    cat52apple ][macseeker
  • Reply 3 of 35
    borpsborps Posts: 18member
    claire1 said:
    When will we punish Google for violating user privacy?
    Well Microsoft also got away with all the shit they did in the past, so my estimate is: never. They’re way to valuable contributors to the NSA’s total surveillance efforts. 
    n2itivguydysamoriamwhitelkrupp
  • Reply 4 of 35
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,588member
    claire1 said:
    When will we punish Google for violating user privacy?
    Um ... violating user privacy is their business model, so that's almost certainly not what the investigation will be about (except for instances of deliberately skirting existing laws protecting child privacy and such). It's likely more about a) times they violated their own rules, b) times they lied about something they were in fact doing, and/or c) their dirty business of funding pirate sites by using those sites to host advertising.

    And that's just the first three things I could think of that they should be investigated for off the top of my head -- there's also their part in helping the Russians interfere with the last general election, and probably a hundred more things if I really sat down and thought about it.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 35
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,588member
    If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses?
    There's no actual evidence that Google "filters" any particular political view. There are propaganda claims of this (about Google, about FB, about Twitter, et al), but no actual evidence that I'm aware of. What Google (and FB and Twitter) do do is block people who violate their rules/TOS repeatedly. Well, with one exception ...
    GeorgeBMacStrangeDaysbb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 35
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,652member
    I'm interested in knowing whether Google and similar companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc) are subject to election spending laws when they make an effort to filter in or out certain political views. 
    Name one bonafide instance where FB, Twitter, or even Google ever purposely returned results with the intent of manipulating political views?

    It's crap like this that's the cancer of the Internet.  People (not companies) putting out their opinions and masquerading it as fact.
    StrangeDaysbb-15beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 7 of 35
    chasm said:
    If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses?
    There's no actual evidence that Google "filters" any particular political view. There are propaganda claims of this (about Google, about FB, about Twitter, et al), but no actual evidence that I'm aware of. What Google (and FB and Twitter) do do is block people who violate their rules/TOS repeatedly. Well, with one exception ...
    Disagree.  Last year at this time any article that pointed towards collusion being fake news was buried deep in search results.  Also, that pesky little video of the meeting they had after Trump was elected showed the bias.  At the end of the day people program those search functions, are they above letting their personal feelings seep into the programming?  Hard to say but I lean no based on the previous two years.
    cat52mobirdapple ][macseekerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 35
    cat52cat52 Posts: 30member
    sflocal said:
    I'm interested in knowing whether Google and similar companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc) are subject to election spending laws when they make an effort to filter in or out certain political views. 
    Name one bonafide instance where FB, Twitter, or even Google ever purposely returned results with the intent of manipulating political views?

    It's crap like this that's the cancer of the Internet.  People (not companies) putting out their opinions and masquerading it as fact.
    Anyone who thinks Google does not filter content based on political views, has simply not been paying attention. Just last week for instance YouTube pulled a documentary from the Canadian filmmaker Lauren Southern after less than 24 hours because Google did not like her film on the European migrant crisis, perhaps because it exposes some of the human trafficking involved. And Ms. Southern is no newbie, she has 700,000 subscribers on YouTube, but this latest project of hers has disappeared without a trace and no reason given. So yes, Google does indeed censor if your politics don’t happen to match theirs.
    mobirdn2itivguyapple ][macseekercrossladapplejakeswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 35
    mobirdmobird Posts: 178member
    "Google is EVIL"
    claire1crossladwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 35
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,207member
    “...in an attempt to counter public perception that the company exploits user data for financial gain.”

    The public PERCEPTION?? It’s a fact. It’s their entire business model.
    cat52chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 35
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    I'm not now or have ever been worried about any "Russian" interference at all. It's always been a laughable joke.

    Google, FB and Twitter's interference, manipulation and censorship is far worse and is also a far greater threat to the election system, to democracy, to free speech and to the USA, as they actually are in control of the biggest platforms. They are in essence big brother and in charge of their respective platforms.

    I've said it before, but I'm sure glad that Apple is not involved in the social media business, like the above mentioned three are.
    macseekercat52applejakeswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 35
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    Do their filtering algorithms need to be examined by the government?
    I think that they should have to have them examined and be given a clean bill of health to prove that there is no illegal tampering taking place.

    I do not trust them or their intentions.

    I used to play poker online some years back, before it got banned online many places in the USA, and almost all of the biggest poker sites have their RNG algorithms verified and tested by an outside third party auditor to ensure that they are legit and not being tampered with.

    Google and the rest of them (FB, Twitter etc.) should also have to prove that their algorithms and practices are legit and they should also have to disclose every facet of how they conduct themselves and their business. There have been far too many instances of shady practices, censorship and discrimination to believe that their intent is fair or honest anymore.



    edited June 1 macseekercat52watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 35
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 967member
    chasm said:
    If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses?
    There's no actual evidence that Google "filters" any particular political view. There are propaganda claims of this (about Google, about FB, about Twitter, et al), but no actual evidence that I'm aware of. What Google (and FB and Twitter) do do is block people who violate their rules/TOS repeatedly. Well, with one exception ...
    Disagree.  Last year at this time any article that pointed towards collusion being fake news was buried deep in search results.  Also, that pesky little video of the meeting they had after Trump was elected showed the bias.  At the end of the day people program those search functions, are they above letting their personal feelings seep into the programming?  Hard to say but I lean no based on the previous two years.
    Because it was fake news. Their bias algorithm is based on user activity. If your focus was on certain types of subjects and interacted with them often positively or negatively, you will get shown more of the same in your searches. Also, a huge amount of initial search results are sponsored ads. They are targeted so if you notice the sponsored tagging you assume it’s a search result or on Facebook a part of your feed. 

  • Reply 14 of 35
    bshankbshank Posts: 162member
    I'm interested in knowing whether Google and similar companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc) are subject to election spending laws when they make an effort to filter in or out certain political views. If traditional media have to be subjected to spending laws, then should Google also be subject? I sincerely don't know, and I would appreciate clarity from DOJ. If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses? If not, why should anyone else be subject to these laws? But if so, how is Google monitored for its bias? Do their filtering algorithms need to be examined by the government?
    Wow 
    edited June 1
  • Reply 15 of 35
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 715member
    bshank said:
    I'm interested in knowing whether Google and similar companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc) are subject to election spending laws when they make an effort to filter in or out certain political views. If traditional media have to be subjected to spending laws, then should Google also be subject? I sincerely don't know, and I would appreciate clarity from DOJ. If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses? If not, why should anyone else be subject to these laws? But if so, how is Google monitored for its bias? Do their filtering algorithms need to be examined by the government?
    Wow 
    How can a question be "wow"? I'm not expressing any opinion, as I expressly indicated, I'm asking a sincere question. Some people in this thread got defensive saying "there is no political bias here." My question was "what happens if there is bias?" The correct response isn't "There is no bias." I didn't even say which way the bias was, left or right.

    If I asked the question, "which Apple computer should I buy if there's no Mac Pro this year?" an equally inappropriate answer would be "There will be a Mac Pro this year." That's also a failure to understand the question.

    For those who asked for evidence of political bias, what about the case this week that was all over the headlines saying that someone's video of Nancy Pelosi was censored by Youtube and Google because it slowed down the audio by 10% which made her look drunk or stupid? You can find videos of Trump being decapitated but if you upload a video slowing down a Democrat's voice by 10%, you get banned by Internet companies. Isn't that bias? I saw the video and the speed slowdown was so minimal I couldn't even tell it was doctored. Nancy Pelosi normally sounds drunk and stupid.
    macseekercat52apple ][
  • Reply 16 of 35
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,672member
    chasm said:
    If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses?
    There's no actual evidence that Google "filters" any particular political view. There are propaganda claims of this (about Google, about FB, about Twitter, et al), but no actual evidence that I'm aware of. What Google (and FB and Twitter) do do is block people who violate their rules/TOS repeatedly. Well, with one exception ...
    This is one of the early uses of the American Gestapo -- formally known as the "Justice Dept" -- to enforce "right-speak" on and by powerful platforms where people obtain their information.  And to punish those who do not toe the line set for them.

    The only laughable part of this is that it is being supported by those who believe most strongly in "limited government" and criticize China for controlling its people and media.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,672member
    apple ][ said:
    Do their filtering algorithms need to be examined by the government?
    I think that they should have to have them examined and be given a clean bill of health to prove that there is no illegal tampering taking place.

    I do not trust them or their intentions.

    I used to play poker online some years back, before it got banned online many places in the USA, and almost all of the biggest poker sites have their RNG algorithms verified and tested by an outside third party auditor to ensure that they are legit and not being tampered with.

    Google and the rest of them (FB, Twitter etc.) should also have to prove that their algorithms and practices are legit and they should also have to disclose every facet of how they conduct themselves and their business. There have been far too many instances of shady practices, censorship and discrimination to believe that their intent is fair or honest anymore.



    Perhaps.   But in this case that assumes that we have a justice department that is impartial and adheres to the rule of law.
    But, we don't.
    Instead we have an Attorney General acting as the president's personal attorney, lying for him, spreading disinformation for him and "investigating" those on his enemies list.
    edited June 1
  • Reply 18 of 35
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 715member
    My original post did not make this a free speech issue. I merely asked how existing US election laws would be applied in this case. I didn't ask for any change to the laws. The 1971 US Federal Election Campaign Act, which has been updated several times, seems to indicate that if you spend money to influence an election you must disclose your spending. Couldn't search result algorithms, created by paid employees, constitute spending on, and influencing, an election? Should Google be subject to this valid federal law? I'm simply asking for clarification on these questions. Is Google exempt from existing federal law regarding election spending? If Google were to return biased results, could that constitute election spending? My opinion is that the US Congress should pass a law indicating what should be done, and if they won't, the US courts should interpret existing laws to answer this question. 
    cat52
  • Reply 19 of 35
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,946member
    claire1 said:
    When will we punish Google for violating user privacy?
    Will they deploy Facebook’s defense in court: “There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy
    chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 35
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,946member
    chasm said:
    If Google filters out any particular political view, are they subject to treat such actions as political support expenses?
    There's no actual evidence that Google "filters" any particular political view. There are propaganda claims of this (about Google, about FB, about Twitter, et al), but no actual evidence that I'm aware of. What Google (and FB and Twitter) do do is block people who violate their rules/TOS repeatedly. Well, with one exception ...
    Disagree.  Last year at this time any article that pointed towards collusion being fake news was buried deep in search results.  Also, that pesky little video of the meeting they had after Trump was elected showed the bias.  At the end of the day people program those search functions, are they above letting their personal feelings seep into the programming?  Hard to say but I lean no based on the previous two years.
    Wrong. Results are weighted based on popularity, not your tinfoil conspiracy of liberal software developers hiding the quacks. 
    apple ][ said:
    I'm not now or have ever been worried about any "Russian" interference at all. It's always been a laughable joke.

    Google, FB and Twitter's interference, manipulation and censorship is far worse and is also a far greater threat to the election system, to democracy, to free speech and to the USA, as they actually are in control of the biggest platforms. They are in essence big brother and in charge of their respective platforms.

    I've said it before, but I'm sure glad that Apple is not involved in the social media business, like the above mentioned three are.
    What certifiable nonsense. There is no election interference from Google or Twitter. There is from Russians. It’s fact, as reported again just the other day by republican Mueller. It’s not up for debate. You’re entitled to your own nonsense opinions, but not your own facts. 

    It is such a sad state for Eisenhower-era republicans that Trump-era republicans are happy to be in bed with Russians if it means getting their joke of candidate in office. 
    edited June 1 chasmGeorgeBMac
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