Google has been slapped with yet another massive fine by European antitrust regulators. This time, the fine was a staggering $1.7 billion and was issued because Google has been blocking and limiting rival ads on various websites. This fine is just one of three Google has faced in under three years. However, this isn’t the first time that Google has been accused of manipulating their content and blocking competitors.
Google has long since been at the forefront of controversy and many have switched to less favorable search engines in an effort to protest the global giant. However, it’s hard to avoid Google completely; they seem to have sunk their claws into every nook and cranny. Even if you regularly avoid Google, they can still collect information on you from companies like Facebook. Both Facebook and Google trade information regarding users back and forth.
Because they are constantly making headlines, Google has been at the forefront of a number of fines. Since 2017, the company has shelled out a staggering $9.41 billion in fines. With this amount of money being scraped out of their pockets, you’d expect Google to learn its lesson quickly. However, the powerful giant is so wealthy and is constantly raking in new revenue that these fines hardly phase them. So what should be an incentive to change, is just a minor inconvenience for Google. This also means that there is little that can be done to convince them to change their shady ways.
The “Old West” Internet
Regardless of age, the Internet is one of the main staples of our everyday existence. Every day we plug into our smartphones, streaming devices, and smart technology (watches, TV, etc.). We use these devices to link to the Internet in an effort to see what’s happening in the world, like recent pictures on Instagram, reply to Snapchats, and of course check social media accounts. In other words, we’re constantly hooked into the Internet.
At one point, the web was still in its infancy and other search engines existed besides just Google. Lycos, Ask Jeeves, Duck Duck Go, and more were readily available for use. And while these undoubtedly collected information on us, particularly search patterns, they didn’t do so to the extent that Google does. Because these search engines are no longer in existence, Google has very few competitors. Its main one being the Tor search engine browser, but even that search engine doesn’t garner the traffic that Google does.
So back in the “Old West” days of the Internet, you could trust your search engine in a way. You were given fair and accurate search results; these engines weren’t manipulating the content that you saw. This is to say that companies couldn’t shell out some money to line the search engine’s pocket in order to block rivals and appear closer to the top of the results. Now, all of that has changed.
And with so many search engines in use, there was no monopoly. Search engines needed to compete with each other, so they did their best to deliver accurate, fair results. As Google has few competitors now, they can not only use their power and influence to block rivals, but they can manipulate what’s shown as well as collect data on your search results.
Also since these engines weren’t collecting information on their users (at least not to the extent that Google does), you could maintain some level of anonymity on the Internet. Your searches were left to the engine and didn’t make it anywhere else. Sure, you may see websites closely related to your search results show up when you go to the engine, but your results weren’t shared with those who had a vested interest in pedaling products to you.
And because of Google’s popularity, the search engine is able to collect data and manipulate things to their benefit. You know how you search for a particular brand on Google and for several days to a week or so later you’ll see all things related to that brand on Facebook as well as other social media accounts? That’s all thanks to Google. They collect your information and sell it back to social media accounts, which then peddle related advertisements back to you.
Google’s road to success wasn’t paved with good intentions
Google certainly has a shady past and the recent fine issued to the company further suggests that Google’s journey to the top isn’t paved through hard, honest work after all. We’re certain that good intentions were definitely part of the company, but it wasn’t hard work alone that got them to the top.
Between 2006 and 2016, the EU learned that Google was heavily restricting third-party rivals. They were doing so by preventing these companies from displaying their advertisements on various websites. This means that Google was able to stay on top and ahead of its competition. After all, you can’t have rivals if people don’t know about them because they never see anything related to them.
How did they accomplish this exactly? Well, this is where things get even shadier. Since Google can’t outright just block these advertisers, they found a loophole and weaseled their way through it. Exclusivity clauses were added to Google contracts. These clauses kept rivals like Yahoo and Microsoft from coming up search results as well as various websites. However, Google has a long history of being shady.
Some odd years back, Google also added a “don’t be evil” clause to their code of conduct. This would later be changed to “do the right thing”, but not before the memes rolled in. Several memes, like the one above, pointed out how silly the clause sounded coming from a company such as Google. The company is notoriously shady and many people were quick to add the “unless it’s profitable” moniker to Google’s motto. After all, how could a company ask others not to be evil when it was not only collecting and selling search information and profiles, but also blocking rivals from sharing their content?
Even now as Google stands firm behind its “do the right thing” motto, people have quested the validity and truth of the statement. Does doing the right thing really include manipulating search results and all the other sketchy stuff that they’re doing? Or is it okay because the global giant is making a profit off of it? Honestly, Google should just have a new motto altogether: “we’ll sell your information for a few bucks,” or “we’re better than our competitors and you need to know that and in order for you know that, we’ve blocked them from showing up.” Or perhaps Google should just change its logo to a giant tree casting shade on everything.
As stated above, Google is able to manipulate competitors through clauses. One of these is the AdSense For Search service, or AdSense for short. This act allows Google to the middleman or buffer between website owners and advertisers. This relationship is established because both parties are looking to make extra money through ads. Advertisers are able to buy “space” on a website in hopes of attracting traffic to their website. Website owners are able to make money by selling spaces on their site. In other words, it’s a symbiotic relationship.
It’s estimated that Google possesses around 70% of the EU market as the middleman. Because of how much they own of the websites as well as their clauses, Google is able to control how many and how often their rivals show up. Shockingly, this flew under the radar for the most part until Microsoft filed a complaint in 2009 with the EU. In their complaint, they accused Google of blocking them from a number of websites.
This prompted an investigation to formally launch in 2016. The investigation dug deeper into Google. The commission suggested that could see signs of Google changing its ways in order to give more freedom to customers and allow them to see competing ads. Others argue that this isn’t enough.
Vestager, who is part of the commission investigating Google, said that the global giant blocked rivals from having the opportunity to compete in open waters based on their merits. “Both website owners and advertisers were given less options and were forced to put out higher prices in an effort to market themselves to potential consumers.”
It’s clear that Google is on its own side
Given the above information and what we know about Google, it’s pretty clear that they are on no one’s side but their own. This became abundantly clear when the Net Neutrality issue came about. During this time, Google definitely put itself at the forefront with their opinions and were extremely open. After all, the world wanted to know where they stood.
At the time, Google had a vested interest in net neutrality because of Google Fiber. Fiber is Google’s TV and Internet company. Because of this interest, Google said publicly that they were in favor of net neutrality. This opinion came in the year 2006 and they made it abundantly clear that they were all in favor of net neutrality. However in 2010, their opinion quickly shifted when they joined forces with Verizon. At this time, they argued against net neutrality and suggested that the regulations regarding it shouldn’t be applied to wireless providers. Verizon and Google also won their case and the FCC allowed wireless providers to discriminate openly against third parties.
Since this, Google has been quiet on the net neutrality front for the most part. They did make a statement in 2014, encouraging people to “take action”. They encouraged people to back net neutrality and said that the FCC should be enforcing their net neutrality rules indiscriminately. Of course, this completely contradicts their stance that was made just four years prior.
In other words, Google is a profit chaser. Their opinions will always be in favor of whoever is lining their pockets at the time.
This isn’t Google’s first fine
Given the information above, it should come as no surprise that Google isn’t exactly a stranger to controversy. The company always seems to find itself at the forefront of some scandal and like Mark Zuckerberg, they simply can’t keep themselves out of hot water. They’re also accustomed to having to fork over large sums of cash for their shady dealings.
Like we said earlier, this is Google’s third fine in less than three years. In 2017, the company paid the EU $2.76 billion. This fine was issued because Google was playing favorites when it came to shopping comparison websites. They were blocking rivals from sharing their content and making these websites much, much harder to find. Google made it easy to access those websites that they were in favor of.
Just one year later, Google was ordered to pay a staggering $4.95 billion. This fine was due to the fact that Google was using its Android platforms to not only limit what rivals were posting, but to block them completely. The latest fine that Google faces is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount they’ve paid in the past. As many say, “that’s the price of doing business and Google has plenty of money to spend.”
Despite receiving fine after fine, Google shows little to no signs of stopping. Since it can afford these fines and still conduct its shady business, what reason does the global giant have to change? And according to reports, Google apparently raked in $30.7 billion in 2018 just from advertising. On advertising alone, they can easily afford to shell out the cash. After all, it’s just a small drop in the ocean.
Because of Google’s size and earnings, they can pay these fines as often as they’re issued without worrying about losing profit while continuing to block rivals and manipulate content.
What are your thoughts on Google?
We’d like to know what your thoughts are on Google. Do you think they’re as “evil” as everyone makes them out to be? Or do you sympathize with them and see what they’re doing as “just part of the business world”? We also want to know whether or not you were aware of all of the scandals surrounding Google. Did you know about the previous fines before this article as well as the other scandals? Or is this all new to you? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!