Friday, March 20, 2015 [Tweets] [Favorites]

FTC Report Shows How Google Skewed Search Results

Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins (via John Gruber):

Instead, Google would “automatically boost” its own sites for certain specialized searches that otherwise would favor rivals, the FTC found. If a comparison-shopping site was supposed to rank highly, Google Product Search was placed above it. When Yelp was deemed relevant to a user’s search query, Google Local would pop up on top of the results page, the staff wrote.

Other regulators have found similar practices. European antitrust authorities in 2013 said Google had a different, “specialized” search algorithm for ranking its own content.

To bolster its own listings, Google sometimes copied, or “scraped,” information from rival sites. According to the FTC report, Google copied Amazon’s rankings of how well products were selling, then used that information to rank its results for product searches. Amazon declined to comment.

But it sounds like the FTC is not recommending any action.

Update (2015-03-25): Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins (via John Gruber):

In discussing one of the issues the FTC staff wanted to sue over, the report said the company illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon to improve its own websites. It cited one instance when Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items. It also copied Amazon’s reviews and ratings, the report found. A TripAdvisor spokesman declined to comment.

When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, Google threatened to remove them from its search engine.

Update (2015-03-25): Danny Sullivan:

To get needed local reviews, Google made “policy decision” that if not provided, local sites dropped from web search

Update (2015-03-28): Danny Sullivan (via Nick Heer):

We’re still going through the report ourselves for follow-up stories. But the live tweet of the highlights I did earlier are rounded-up below[…]

Brody Mullins:

One way Google favored its own results was to change its ranking criteria. Google typically ranks sites based on measures like the number of links that point to a site, or how often users click on the site in search results.

But Marissa Mayer, who was then a Google vice president, said Google didn’t use click-through rates to determine the ranking for its own specialized-search sites, because they would rank too low, according to the staff report.

Via Nick Heer:

So why did this case — which, by the way, recommended a lawsuit against Google — result in no charges and no suit?

Comments

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment