Democratic Rep. Seeks Google Info From FTC

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has asked Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen for documentation of its long-running antitrust investigation of Google, which was closed in 2013 with no finding of antitrust violations.

In 2013, the FTC concluded: "Google’s display of its own content could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search product. Similarly, we have not found sufficient evidence that Google manipulates its search algorithms to unfairly disadvantage vertical websites that compete with Google-owned vertical properties.

That came despite complaints to Congress from some small online businesses that Google was disfavoring them in search.

Ellison points out that Google did volunteer to change some business practices in the wake of the investigation.

"Given the impact Google has on small businesses, the flow of information, and that Google controls an outsize portion of the market for online search and online advertising, the public has a right to know what the Federal Trade Commission found in its investigation into Google," Ellison said in a letter to Ohlhausen.

Related: Sen. Blumenthal: FTC Should Investigate Google

He wants reports and analysis from the Bureau of Competition and the Bureau of Economics.

While the FTC did not find any reason to crack down, Ellison points out that in June, the European Union fined Google a record $2.7 billion for violating EU antitrust rules, saying it had "abused its market dominance in search" and gave "illegal advantage" to its own comparison shopping service over competitors.

Ellison wants the documents by Nov. 30.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.