There were expected to be fireworks at the US Congress’ tech antitrust hearing, and we weren’t let down. Four of the world’s largest tech companies had some explaining and defending to do. Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet’s Google answered some tough questions. Perhaps, Google CEO Sundar Pichai faced the toughest question of them all. Congressman David Cicilline wasted absolutely no time in getting the grilling underway when he asked Pichai “Why Does Google Steal Content From Honest Businesses?”
Immediately, Pichai responded saying he didn’t agree with the “characterizations” being made the Senate committee. However, Cicilline didn’t give up saying they had collected “consistent reports” of such behaviour by Google. “Most Americans believe that when they enter a search query that what Google shows are the most relevant results. But increasingly Google just shows whatever is most profitable for Google,” said Cicilline. The allegation by Yelp also figured in the discussion, in which the company had said Google threatened to delist it from Search results.
Pichai was also questioned on whether Google uses its web traffic data to identify competition and limit it. “Congressman, just like other businesses we try to understand trends from, you know, data, which we can see, and we use it to improve our products for users,” said Pichai.
There is the belief that Google is tailoring Search results to favour its own products of businesses that are comfortable in its walled garden. “Isn't there a fundamental conflict of interest between serving users that want to access the best and most relevant information and Google's business model which incentivizes google to sell ads and keep users on Google's own sites?” asked Cicilline. Google firmly insists they do not alter search results to benefit them or any specific businesses. “We are focused on providing users with the information they are looking for,” said Pichai.
Google, at this time, stands accused of dampening innovation and new business growth. Google has also ensured that any new business that wants to figure prominently in Search results needs to pay Google a tax, is how Cicilline finished the closing remarks.