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Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google

Fascinating look from the WSJ at a 2012 FTC staff report that recommended filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google:

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.

“It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect,” the report said, “which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down.” The company also sent a message that it would “use its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations.”

The FTC revealed this report to the Journal by mistake:

The Wall Street Journal viewed portions of the document after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The FTC declined to release the undisclosed pages and asked the Journal to return the document, which it declined to do.

“Unfortunately, an unredacted version of this material was inadvertently released in response to a FOIA request,” an FTC spokesman said in a statement to the Journal. “We are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again,” the statement said.

Thursday, 19 March 2015