By Alyssa Adcock
The U.S. government must bring antitrust action against Google immediately. This should include (1) requiring Google to make its full search algorithm public and (2) prohibiting it from buying up competitor companies. Google is a monopoly. It has a monopoly on search. It has a monopoly on search advertising. It has restricted innovation, stifling any and all of its competitors. Swift action must be taken to prevent further antitrust violations. A private company should not control the flow of information on the internet.
Google should be required to make its search algorithm fully public and available. Google has been an unopposed search monopoly for almost a decade. Over 90% of all internet searches are conducted through Google platforms. The second most used search engine, Bing, has 2% of the market. A private company cannot control the flow of information; this gives too much power to the company. The U.S. government should require Google to make its search algorithm public and ensure:
- Accessibility: Companies should have unrestricted, full access to the entire algorithm without throttled speeds.
- Transparency: Google cannot restrict or manipulate content on the search index (e.g. moving a search result arbitrarily to a lesser position) and other companies should be allowed to add appropriate content.
- Free or nominal fees: No fees should be required for low-volume users. For high-volume users (e.g. Microsoft’s Bing or DuckDuckGo), Google should be allowed to impose minimal access fees.
Google is restricting innovation through almost exclusive ownership of internet searches. When ownership of a necessary product (in this case, search index) no longer serves the public good, the government has an obligation to step in. In the 1950s, AT&T (then Bell Lab) was a telecommunication monopoly. Following a governmental antitrust lawsuit, the 1956 consent decree required Bell Lab to share its patents with other companies. In the following five years, innovation building off those now free patents increased by 17%. Monopolies suppress technological innovation and competition, both of which drive our economy forward.
Google should be restricted from acquiring competitor companies. After going public in 2004, Google has amassed more than 200 companies including YouTube (the second most visited website in 2019 behind Google.com), Android (the most widely used smartphone operating system worldwide), and DoubleClick (which holds more than 50% of the U.S. market share for advertising platforms). Many of these acquisitions are search start-ups, including the recent 2018 buyout of Tenor, an image search engine. Some tech startups even center their business plan around being acquired by Google – this mentality is the opposite of the spirit of competition. Google has been unrestricted in acquiring its competitors, which limits competition, raises the barrier to new entrepreneurs, and reduces innovation.
Since 2017, Google has already been fined over $8 billion by the European Union for antitrust violations. The U.S. government has fallen behind in regulating Google. Only recently, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would review the practices of online platforms, including Google. This review must find Google in violation of antitrust laws.
Governmental action must to be taken to ensure there is sufficient competition and innovation in the internet search industry – Google must be regulated. Access to online data and the internet must not be limited to only one company.