Google says user choice makes DOJ antitrust lawsuit 'deeply flawed'

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Google has issued its public response to the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit filed on Tuesday, defending itself from the "deeply flawed" lawsuit claiming users choose to use Google, rather than being forced.

Google on a MacBook Pro
Google on a MacBook Pro


On Tuesday morning, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the tech giant was abusing its position as a "gatekeeper" to the Internet, by behaving in an anticompetitive way regarding search.

The DoJ put forward the argument that Google's spending of considerable sums to become the default search in browsers, such as Safari, as well as agreements for Android requiring Google's search tools be preinstalled on smartphones and preventing others from doing the same, severely hampers the search market. DoJ Officials believe Google owns or controls search channels covering 80% of US-based searches, making it extremely hard for rivals to gain an audience and grow to become proper competition to Google.

In a blog post, Google SVP of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker rails against the lawsuit, believed it to be "deeply flawed" due to user habits. "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives," writes Walker.

"This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers," he argues. "To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use."

Citing the DoJ's use of "dubious antitrust arguments" to criticize Google, the company reckons its paid access for default search is similar to how "a cereal brand might pay a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level." While Google negotiates agreements for similar purposes, to put search in front of customers, it reckons "our competitors are readily available to, if you want to use them."

Other search engines also compete with Google to secure these agreements, Walker adds, asserting "our agreements have passed repeated antitrust reviews."

Hardware-specific arguments

For Apple devices, Apple features Google Search in Safari because "they say Google is 'the best," the blog states, and that the arrangement isn't exclusive. "Our competitors Bing and Yahoo! pay to prominently feature, and other rival services also appear."

Google also claims it is simple to change search engines in Safari, with a single click on Macs providing a list of options, while it is said to be similarly easy to accomplish on iOS. "It's even easier on iOS 14" to use alternative search engines, the post continues, with the ability to add widgets from other providers to the home screen.

For Microsoft, Google explains that the Edge browser is preloaded on Windows systems, not Chrome, with Bing as the default search engine.

On the subject of Android, Google admits to the existence of promotional agreements with carriers and device vendors to feature Google services, reasoning "these agreements enable us to distribute Android fro free, so they directly reduce the price that people pay for phones." Even with said agreements, Google highlights that some carriers and device producers often preload "numerous competing apps and app stores" onto hardware.

Bigger missed point

Walker goes on to suggest the bigger point that the DoJ misses in the lawsuit is that "people don't use Google because they have to, they use it because they choose to." Reasoning that it isn't the "dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult" that required software purchases, users have a choice of apps and can change their settings "in a matter of seconds."

"This lawsuit claims that Americans aren't sophisticated enough to do this," Walker insinuates, "but we know that's not true. And you know it too: people downloaded a record 204 billion apps in 2019. Many of the world's most popular apps aren't preloaded - think of Spotify, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon, and Facebook."

Google's data supposedly claims to show users select their preferred service, before Walker goes into an example involving Mozilla's Firefox, a browser "funded almost entirely by revenue from search promotional agreements." Walker claims most US users switched the default search to Google during a time when Yahoo! paid to be the default search service on the browser, a choice apparently bolstered by Mozilla later choosing to use Google by default over an "effort to provide quality search."

"We understand that with our success comes scrutiny, but we stand by our position," Walker writes in conclusion. "American antitrust law is designed to promote innovation and help consumers, not tilt the playing field in favor of particular competitors or make it harder for people to get the services they want. We're confident that a court will conclude that this suit doesn't square with either the facts or the law."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Isn’t this very similar to Microsoft not allowing any other browser to be pre installed on windows machine?  The old internet explorer antitrust suit.  Take your fine Google, then let android handsets come with other search options be installed as the initial default.  If what Google says is true, then they shouldn’t have any issue with doing that, and shouldn’t fear losing revenue. 
    aderutterwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    People would in the main choose Google if given a choice, but you can’t say they did when they weren’t given an up-front choice at all. Google won’t win this. 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,671member
    I commented in the related article that I don't believe Apple gives you a chance to select your search engine when a new iOS device is turned on or when iOS is updated. Safari on macOS is updated separately from macOS (usually) and I don't remember ever being asked to select or confirm my search engine choice. At a minimum this should be done every time there's a change that affects search engines, especially since Apple doesn't provide that service. Many people will simply choose Google for searching without understanding or caring what Google does. This is not an excuse for not highlighting this setting when installing or updating iOS and macOS. Apple does offer setting configurations during installation for their products, however, therefore they should offer setting configurations for products they don't own but use like the search engine.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Hmm Google’s response ignores their other and more significant efforts to keep users entwined without their knowledge, eg users don’t actively opt for AMP or tracking via ad placement, analytics and other means, all of which are also features that disproportionately benefit Google. Similarly Google Chrome is a good example of their dominance: it is neither faster nor more efficient than any of the default web browsers, yet widely installed by people who believe google’s false claim that it is faster/better.

    The other issue is that Google don’t operate a closed ecosystem that people opt into (unlike say purchasing into Apple’s ecosystem of devices and services). The web is open, but it’s impossible to use it without interfacing with Google on some level. The ubiquity of their territory extends well beyond their domain. This is an often forgotten point when comparing large tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google. The former two require an active choice by the user, the latter does not and is factually unavoidable - and thus requires deeper scrutiny. 

    qwerty52watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    rob53 said:
    I commented in the related article that I don't believe Apple gives you a chance to select your search engine when a new iOS device is turned on or when iOS is updated.
    Based on your argument, apple also don’t highlight other calculators available for download. We all just use the built in calculator. So is apple at fault too?

    the argument of DOJ is almost like assumed American customers are retard. But again, some people don’t even know the simple on and off. 
    qwerty52
  • Reply 6 of 16
    My guess is that lots of people use google search engine because they are not aware of the alternative and it’s being reinforced by “our” use of the phrase “Google it” instead of “use search engine and find out” 

    Out government is increasingly getting involved in our lives. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    docbburk said:
    Isn’t this very similar to Microsoft not allowing any other browser to be pre installed on windows machine?  The old internet explorer antitrust suit.  Take your fine Google, then let android handsets come with other search options be installed as the initial default.  If what Google says is true, then they shouldn’t have any issue with doing that, and shouldn’t fear losing revenue. 
    Personally, rather than have that happen, I would rather Google simply ditch Android. Google needed Android at the time as they were on the verge of being run out of business by the combination of Yahoo - which was much larger and wealthier at the time - and Microsoft (at the time the biggest and most powerful company in the world and to this day still much larger and wealthier). Now they can survive without Android. So they should just go ahead and do it.

    So - even though I personally love my Samsung Galaxy devices - Google should just dump it. That would make everyone happy, right? Let the EU, DOJ and all the other whiners who blame Google for all their problems take it over and see if they could do a better job. Yeah right ... fat chance of that happening. The result would just be even bigger market share by Apple and then Microsoft bringing back Windows Phone to fill the need for devices that cost less than $400 (and cost less than $800 if you want something with a screen bigger than 5.5 inches, which the global marketplace clearly shows that the vast majority of consumers do, including now most Apple fans). And what a wonderful world that would be ...

    A power move: after ditching Android, Google could simply put ChromeOS on mobile phones. Result? Everyone who uses Android now would switch to that because that is the OS that Google still supports and the OS that is integrated with Google services out of the box. So go ahead DOJ. Make Android no longer worth the huge trouble and significant expense of Google maintaining it. I have been wanting a ChromeOS phone for years anyway.

    Or even better: maybe it would drive Google to stop dawdling and finally release Fuchsia! That's the funny part. Google has been working on Fuchsia for years and is already prepared for the post-Android world that these whiners who are so desperate to go back to the Microsoft-Apple duopoly in PCs that we were forced to live in for 40 years (thankfully ChromeOS has FINALLY gotten enough market share to be a viable alternative). Those were great times, weren't they? Well hey, go ahead, sue Google and take us back to the good ole days where there were only two companies providing commercially available operating systems (and one of those only provides it to you with their hardware, making it effectively just one).
    edited October 2020 FileMakerFellermuthuk_vanalingamgatorguy
  • Reply 8 of 16
    Hmm Google’s response ignores their other and more significant efforts to keep users entwined without their knowledge, eg users don’t actively opt for AMP or tracking via ad placement, analytics and other means, all of which are also features that disproportionately benefit Google. Similarly Google Chrome is a good example of their dominance: it is neither faster nor more efficient than any of the default web browsers, yet widely installed by people who believe google’s false claim that it is faster/better.

    The other issue is that Google don’t operate a closed ecosystem that people opt into (unlike say purchasing into Apple’s ecosystem of devices and services). The web is open, but it’s impossible to use it without interfacing with Google on some level. The ubiquity of their territory extends well beyond their domain. This is an often forgotten point when comparing large tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google. The former two require an active choice by the user, the latter does not and is factually unavoidable - and thus requires deeper scrutiny. 

    There is a second even bigger problem: Search engines improve based on training. Once you are the biggest search engine and have a good deep learning implementation, you will always stay ahead and the gap will only get bigger no matter how much others invest. With every single search, your search engine gets better. If you have 10x more searches than your competitor, then you learn much faster than your smaller competitor. The only viable alternative to Google is at the moment Baidu in certain parts of the world, due to the fact that they are in the same position as Google, but then for China only. Try Bing once and you immediately close your tab, and open a new one with Google, because the search is so bad. And no matter how much Microsoft will invest, due to its existing user base it will never be able to catch up with Google.

    Then because of the dominant position, for financial reasons, as a business you have to advertise on Google, and place trackers all over the place and that in turns improves Google search even more so that everyone including me keeps on using it. Then this giant cashflow of advertising funds everything else: Google makes a huge profit on search and loses money on almost everything else.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    Sadly, I must side with Google on this one. They are not the only game in town and it’s incumbent on consumers to educate themselves on alternatives, not the government or Google. I like DuckDuckGo.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 16
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,562member
    Sadly, I must side with Google on this one. They are not the only game in town and it’s incumbent on consumers to educate themselves on alternatives, not the government or Google. I like DuckDuckGo.
    The DoJ is saying it's about exclusionary business practices with hardware manufacturers. Consumers cannot switch search engines to solve this. Sixty percent of all user search queries sent to Google come from devices for which Google has an exclusionary license agreement with the manufacturer. And half of the remaining 40% come through Google-written apps like Chrome. In fact the DoJ report says that Google is using exclusionary agreements to prohibit DuckDuckGo from doing well.

    But I'm intimidated by arguing with someone who has 33,000 posts. You must have a very thick skin and a warehouse of expertise. So I'm not really expecting to win any argument with you. Just wondering - are you from Hawaii? They are crazy about Spam down there.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,012member
    viclauyyc said:
    rob53 said:
    I commented in the related article that I don't believe Apple gives you a chance to select your search engine when a new iOS device is turned on or when iOS is updated.
    Based on your argument, apple also don’t highlight other calculators available for download. We all just use the built in calculator. So is apple at fault too?

    the argument of DOJ is almost like assumed American customers are retard. But again, some people don’t even know the simple on and off. 
    It could be that consumers are stupid, however, humans are creatures of habit and lazy. Most consumers will not seek out an alternative unless they are giving a very good reason. Google over the years have set themselves up as the default to the point that no one can compete with them. Since they have this level of dominance, they now have the ability to only show you what they want you to see and bury stuff to level where most people will not look for it. They can now drive business to specifically companies/information as they see fit. 

    This is nothing new with Google, they been doing this for years, what is new is the fact you cannot bypass their preferred suggestions search. I use to be able to use the old style Boolean search of using a + or - in front of words to ensure I found what I was looking for and Google just ignores this now. From time to time I search for specific things and I know it exist since I found them in the past and those things will no longer come up anymore in Google search but I find them on Bing and Duckduckgo. 

    This is the kind of activity the government is looking into and the fact Google is using it's market dominance to drive or hide consumers to a specific business or information.

    I personally miss the old sherlock/Watson on the mac which would search all the search engines at once.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,243member
    maestro64 said:
    viclauyyc said:
    rob53 said:
    I commented in the related article that I don't believe Apple gives you a chance to select your search engine when a new iOS device is turned on or when iOS is updated.
    Based on your argument, apple also don’t highlight other calculators available for download. We all just use the built in calculator. So is apple at fault too?

    the argument of DOJ is almost like assumed American customers are retard. But again, some people don’t even know the simple on and off. 
    ... Since they have this level of dominance, they now have the ability to only show you what they want you to see and bury stuff to level where most people will not look for it. They can now drive business to specifically companies/information as they see fit. 

    This is nothing new with Google, they been doing this for years, what is new is the fact you cannot bypass their preferred suggestions search.  From time to time I search for specific things and I know it exist since I found them in the past and those things will no longer come up anymore in Google search but I find them on Bing and Duckduckgo.
    I've not ever seen this but apparently you have, and more than once. I've seen it the other way around of course as several others here have. Any personal examples of Google not surfacing results you can find on DDG? Even just one? Then we could move on to figure out why. 
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 13 of 16
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,562member
    gatorguy said:
    maestro64 said:
    From time to time I search for specific things and I know it exist since I found them in the past and those things will no longer come up anymore in Google search but I find them on Bing and Duckduckgo.
    I've not ever seen this but apparently you have, and more than once. I've seen it the other way around of course as several others here have.
    Both of you could give examples. I'd be curious. Or better, cite a news story which has done more extensive sampling, because a single case isn't always convincing.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,243member
    gatorguy said:
    maestro64 said:
    From time to time I search for specific things and I know it exist since I found them in the past and those things will no longer come up anymore in Google search but I find them on Bing and Duckduckgo.
    I've not ever seen this but apparently you have, and more than once. I've seen it the other way around of course as several others here have.
    Both of you could give examples. I'd be curious. Or better, cite a news story which has done more extensive sampling, because a single case isn't always convincing
    Search "Maine Central Institute logo images" on both.
    Search "List of patent assertion claims in 2017" on both.

    These were actual searches I did today. The second was looking for a particular case I remembered from either 2017 or 2018. Turns out it was 2019.

    If you want news articles where someone ranks them rather than personal results that's a search you can do yourself isn't it? Use any search engine you want. The claim the OP made was based on his own searches..
  • Reply 15 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,243member
    gatorguy said:
    maestro64 said:
    From time to time I search for specific things and I know it exist since I found them in the past and those things will no longer come up anymore in Google search but I find them on Bing and Duckduckgo.
    I've not ever seen this but apparently you have, and more than once. I've seen it the other way around of course as several others here have.
    Both of you could give examples. I'd be curious. Or better, cite a news story which has done more extensive sampling, because a single case isn't always convincing.
    So @22july2013 did my post satisfy your request? I know the OP hasn't posted anything proving DDG surfaces results Google doesn't but I believe that's because he doesn't have any to offer. 
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Sadly, I must side with Google on this one. They are not the only game in town and it’s incumbent on consumers to educate themselves on alternatives, not the government or Google. I like DuckDuckGo.
    The DoJ is saying it's about exclusionary business practices with hardware manufacturers. Consumers cannot switch search engines to solve this. Sixty percent of all user search queries sent to Google come from devices for which Google has an exclusionary license agreement with the manufacturer. And half of the remaining 40% come through Google-written apps like Chrome. In fact the DoJ report says that Google is using exclusionary agreements to prohibit DuckDuckGo from doing well.

    But I'm intimidated by arguing with someone who has 33,000 posts. You must have a very thick skin and a warehouse of expertise. So I'm not really expecting to win any argument with you. Just wondering - are you from Hawaii? They are crazy about Spam down there.
    I kinda in the same boat as spam.  I thought googles argument was well reasoned.  I am an avid user of DDG as well, because I value my privacy.
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