Google Takes Issue with Vocal Critics Gary Reback, Scott Cleland

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Google takes issue with news reports this week, including our coverage, in which high-profile antitrust litigator Gary Reback and frequent Google critic Scott Cleland raised questions about the search giant’s business practices.

    “From a big picture perspective AT&T and Microsoft are working actively every day to try to gin up antitrust issues and seed antitrust issues against us,” says Andrew Kovacevich, Google’s Washington D.C.-based senior manager of global communications and public affairs. “They pay people like Reback and Cleland and others to make the arguments against us so they don’t have do it themselves.”

    Reback is the Silicon Valley litigator best known for spearheading the U.S. Department of Justice sanctions against Microsoft a decade ago. Kovacevich noted that Reback, ironically, was more recently paid by Microsoft to challenge Google’s controversial settlement with book authors over their copyrights.

    Reback says it’s no secret that Microsoft was a member of the Open Book Alliance, a group formed to challenge Google over book authors’ rights. Other members of that alliance included Amazon, Yahoo, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Internet Archive, the National Writers Union, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Small Press Distribution and the Special Libraries Association.

    Reback says all of the alliance members contributed money to challenging Google, which was widely written about. He says that matter had nothing to do with study results he disclosed on Wednesday at a Washington D.C. conference.

    At that event, Reback called for President Obama to order a formal antitrust investigation of Google’s business practices. Reback demonstrated how Google properties turned up as the no. 1 search result 98% of the time — for 40,000 random shopping searches.

    His business relationship with Microsoft as part of the Open Book Alliance “had absolutely nothing to do with the presentation I put on at the Consumer Watchdog conference,” says Reback. “It had nothing to do with Microsoft, that’s not their study, they didn’t pay for it, they didn’t even know about it.”

    Cleland also spoke at the same conference, outlining why Europe’s formal antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices is likely to be deep and wide ranging.

    “Google routinely tries to claim that anybody who says anything negative about Google only does so because they work for Google’s competitors and have no mind or views of their own,” says Cleland.

    Cleland says he has been transparent about who pays him. He also points out that he is frequently invited to testify at Congressional hearings on privacy and antitrust matters revolving around Google.

    “Three different congressional committees did not view the fact that I work for major companies that may compete with Google as disqualifying me from having an expert opinion on Google,” says Cleland. “It is obvious that I am a critic of Google since I also fully disclose that I am also publisher of, a Google watchdog site, and, the world’s largest collection of antitrust research on Google.”

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