Yelp And TripAdvisor Target Google Employees To Make Google Fair Again

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Kyle Perisic Contributor
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Yelp and TripAdvisor have formed a coalition targeting Google employees, asking them to make Google’s effective monopoly on internet searches fair for its competitors.

The coalition, called “Focus on the User,” is led by Yelp and TripAdvisor and also consists of a few progressive activist organizations. It plans on targeting Google employees through online ads with an animated video they produced that explains why Google’s current practices are anti-competitive, Recode reported Wednesday.

The argument against Google is that the search engine is placing its own content, such as its shopping site, above its competitors in search results. Since 90 percent of all internet searches are done on Google, the site has an effective monopoly on the industry, making it especially susceptible to anti-competitive behavior.

Google has also faced complaints of violating antitrust laws before. Yelp filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the European Union, The Daily Caller News Foundation reported Wednesday and the European Union’s Competition Commission fined Google $2.8 billion for placing its shopping content in before its competitors in 2o17.

Google is currently appealing the European Union’s 2017 decision, saying “the current shopping results (with pictures and rating of products) are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago.”

“While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data shows that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches,” Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker wrote in a blog post on June 27.

Focus on the User insists the move is not a ploy to get their own content, especially that of Yelp and TripAdvisor that are direct competitors to Google, placed higher on the search results.

“The goal is to restore a competitive process where the content that ‘wins’ the box did the best job at helping consumers, and the judge is Google’s own organic processes and quality scoring,” Focus on the User wrote in its FAQ. “Google’s own content can and should be a part of the competition, but that’s not possible if Google ‘wins’ by default every time.”

The FAQ provides an answer to the potential argument against Focus on the User’s cause, which is that since its Google’s website, it should have the right to can control what users see. Focus on the User wrote that “most of the time,” this is true. Due to the nature of Google’s allegedly anti-competitive behavior and “its dominant position in organic search,” it’s stifling its competitors’ ability to grow.

Google’s practices have been accused of being particular damaging to small businesses. It’s nearly impossible for a new business to get funding from investors if its model directly competes with Google’s, CBS’s Steve Kroft explained during “60 Minutes.”

“If I were starting out today, I would have no shot of building Yelp. That opportunity has been closed off by Google and their approach,” Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman said in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday.

It will “snuff you out,” if Google views a business as a threat, Stoppelman explained. “They will make you disappear. They will bury you.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Competition recommended an antitrust lawsuit be filed against Google for its search engine practices in 2012, but federal authorities closed the case in 2013 without placing any charges against Google.

“Google is in the unique position of being able to ‘make or break any web-based business,'” according to a confidential memo written by the FTC’s Bureau of Competition in 2012, parts of which were obtained by The Wall Street Journal in 2015.

“It flatly says that Google’s conduct was anti-competitive. It flatly says that Google’s conduct hurt consumers. I mean, what else would you need to know to vote out a complaint?” asked antitrust lawyer Gary Reback in the same “60 Minutes” interview. “There it is, written by your own staff. And yet, nothing happened.”

Instead, the FTC’s commissioners gave Google some voluntary recommendations to improve its business practices. Reback speculates that it was due to Google’s close relationship with the Obama administration and lobbying efforts that ended the case.

Google’s employees have been known to be politically active, so targeting them could prove to have some merit to it. (RELATED: Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ From Code Of Conduct)

Some of Google’s employees resigned in protest for Google’s artificial intelligence program with the Pentagon and more than 3,100 signed an open letter in April sent to their employer asking it to end the program, citing Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KylePerisic

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