Is Googles search business so big that the company tries to use its influence to crush its rivals in other businesses? That was the question that US Senators wanted an answer to from Googles Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt. Reuters reports that Schmidt was in Washington DC on Wednesday to be grilled by members of the Senate Judiciary Committees antitrust panel. The committee is examining if Googles position as the number one provider of search on the Internet has caused the company to engage in anti-competitive practices.
One charge leveled by some people against Google is that the company actually manipulates its search results to point to Googles own products. An example was given during the hearing where Googles shopping service always came up third when shopping keywords are typed into Google. Republican Senator Mike Lee told Schmidt, "I see you magically coming up third every time. I dont know whether you call this a separate algorithm or whether youve reverse engineered one algorithm, but either way youve cooked it, so that youre always third." Schmidt flat out denied that accusation, saying, "Senator, may I simply say that I can assure you weve not cooked anything."
In fact Schmidt testified that Google actually has a lot of competition in a number of areas including restaurants and shopping reviews. But thats not how some of its rivals see it. Jeffrey Katz, the CEO of the shopping comparison web site Nextag, offered a written testimony for the hearing where he said, "Google doesnt play fair. Google rigs its results, biasing in favor of Google Shopping and against competitors like us."