European Commission probes Google for antitrust violations

The European Commission aims to keep a digital market that is fair to everyone and attempts to prevent monopolies in the digital world. Well-known for their strife against Microsoft for including Internet Explorer with their Windows OS instead of offering competing browsers, the European Commission is now investigating Google over favoring their own services in search results instead of a true unbiased list.

Google is accused of altering both forms of their results, the unpaid search results and the third-party advertisements, announced today by the European Commission. The unpaid search results are the main results on the page, which are selected based on an algorithm. The Commission however is looking into the results to see whether Google has abused their position as the top search engine by tweaking results to favor their own services and close out competitors.

Specifically, the search giant is accused of altering both types of results shown in their search. Google is allegedly lowering the ranking of the unpaid search results of competing companies and services to Google's own; the second part deals with how third-party advertisements are chosen to be displayed.

The European Commission is looking into allegations of lowering the "Quality Score" of competing services. The Quality Score determines two articles of criteria: the likelihood of an ad to be displayed on the search results page and how much it would cost for a service to gain higher rankings. By lowering the Quality Score of competing services, they are less likely to show the ads, but also if the competing service wishes for their ad to be shown, they will need to pay more for that higher ranking.

Google is also accused of enforcing stricter requirements for their advertising partners which will prevent competing companies to place the same advertisements shown on Google onto their own websites or other search engines such as Bing.

Currently, the European Commission says the probe doesn't imply they have any proof. They responded to the matter by saying, "It only signifies that the commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority," in a statement regarding the issue.

Google has posted their thoughts on the issue on their Public Policy Blog. The search giant highlights four major points that they would like everyone to be aware of regarding their service: "Answering users' queries accurately and quickly is our number one goal", "We built Google for users, not websites", "We are always clear when we have been paid for promoting a product or service", and "We aim to be as transparent as possible."

Throughout Google's response, they attempt to make it clear that they are the most open with how their ranking system works and keep integrity of their results. In response to the advertisement tampering accusations, Google reports they aim to give accurate content as fast as possible, so based on what the algorithms say the user needs the most is how the ads will be chosen. Another point made was that the search results are not for websites, but for getting the most relevant content to the user. They do not forget to note either how Google has never taken bribes or payment for higher rankings in their search results. One way by doing that was specifically splitting up the advertisement portion and the organic search results section.

Google closes their response by mentioning the change and innovation going on at the company, listing several services and how the world is moving in the direction of dynamic and real-time content. Google says they only offer pure results, but will respect the European Commission's process and will continue to work closely with them and answer any of their questions.

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