Obama-era documents indicate FTC ignored evidence of antitrust violations by Google

Google is among several major tech firms to face mounting allegations of antitrust violations in recent years, particularly in connection to its search engine results and advertising practices.

Although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) express scrutiny of the company during the Obama administration, recent reports reveal that its five commissioners ignored the advice of their own staffers and attorneys to let Google off the hook without any repercussions.

Areas of concern

According to the Washington Examiner, the FTC commissioners either misinterpreted or downplayed evidence that the Big Tech firm had created an unacceptable monopoly through its massive online footprint.

The commission is also accused of making wildly inaccurate predictions about the future of technology and the prospects of Google’s smaller competitors.

These revelations stem from a trove of internal documents related to the FTC’s investigation of Google, which spanned from 2011 to 2013.

Politico obtained and reviewed the documents, which reportedly show that commissioners ultimately decided to take no action against Google despite the advice of staff attorneys who had determined that the company took a number of proactive steps to unfairly dominate the market.

Targeted advertising and search results were among the most obvious ways Google perpetuated its plan, the report determined.

Details from the documents

Documents show that FTC lawyers pleaded with the commissioners to file a federal lawsuit against Google over the manner in which it had obtained exclusive contracts with Apple and major wireless carriers to have its search engine preinstalled on mobile devices.

A senior Google executive even admitted to investigators that the company paid a “humongous” sum of money to secure such deals, further bragging in an internal Google document that the company would “own the U.S. market” as a result.

The FTC documents also reportedly showed that Google, by way of its search engine algorithms, had unfairly prioritized its own products above its competitors in results.

Some of Google’s Big Tech rivals, including Amazon and Facebook, apparently urged the FTC in private to take action against the unfair practices. In fact, Amazon was willing to incur a financial loss by entering into less lucrative contracts with rival search engines like Bing and Yahoo in an effort to prevent Google from enveloping the entire online retail market.

Further showing how apparently out of touch the FTC commissioners were at the time, they found that the use of targeted advertising had only “limited potential for growth.” It has now ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry. Virtually all of the concerns that the FTC downplayed or dismissed under Obama are now central pieces of at least three ongoing antitrust lawsuits against Google, which were filed by the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump.

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