Top trustbuster says DOJ watching search industry

The U.S. Justice Department is paying close attention to the Internet search industry now dominated by Internet giant, Google, according to Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney.

Varney, the  nation’s top trustbuster, gave the keynote speech last week to the American Antitrust Institute’s 11th Annual Convention in Washington, DC. I was there and took the opportunity to ask her what government policy should be if online search naturally tends to become a monopoly.

I believe it does and, moreover,  Google now has one.

I wanted to know if the antitrust laws were sufficient or if some additional regulation was necessary to deal with the situation.

Varney responded that the DOJ is very familiar with the search industry and is watching it closely.  She noted that the department blocked a proposed deal between Google and Yahoo! on antitrust grounds, but did approve the more recent Microsoft-Yahoo! arrangement.

She indicated the department is continuing to watch the search industry (that means Google) closely. It has also opposed the proposed Google Books class action settlement.

Being a monopoly is not in itself against the law if the monopoly position developed naturally.  The problem comes if a company uses its monopoly power in an unfair way toward competitors.

Inside Google’s recent study found evidence that is exactly what Google has been doing since it launched Universal Search in 2007.

Varney played her cards close to her vest as you’d expect in a public forum. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks the DOJ’s watching may well become acting sooner rather than later.

Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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