Google and the FTC: Searching (in Vain) for a Violation

Rich Tucker /

Sure, you’re smart enough to use the Internet. That’s how you found this post. But are you smart enough to be trusted with the power to select your own Internet search engine? Some—mostly competitors of Google—aren’t so sure.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided (after an almost two-year-long investigation) that Google isn’t violating antitrust laws. As former FTC chairman James C. Miller explains in The Wall Street Journal:

Despite the rhetoric of Google’s antagonists, they failed to convince the FTC that the company’s policies harmed consumers. Since consumers can change search engines with the simple click of a mouse, it’s a stretch to say that Google has monopoly power. Consumers can search the Web a variety of ways, such as through Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, dedicated apps or even Apple’s Siri.

The government isn’t necessarily finished with this issue, though. The FTC investigation was spurred by, a group comprised of Google rivals including Microsoft and Kayak. FairSearch might still ask the Justice Department to intervene.

And, in a perverse way, that makes sense. After all, “U.S. regulators long have struggled to determine what’s best for consumers,” as The Washington Post puts it.

Here’s an idea: How about allowing consumers to determine what’s best for consumers? If most people opt to use Google, maybe that’s just because Google does the best job. When a better search engine comes along, people will use it. Novel concept, no?