Are companies getting a fair shake in Google’s search rankings-especially ones that compete with the company’s offerings in various fields, like photos, chat, and video? It’s a question that’s going to get some attention this year in Congress. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who heads the Senate Antitrust Committee, has released a list of topics he intends to have his committee look into in 2011, and Google’s “dominance over internet search” is on it.
The idea that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) might be favoring its own services has been a trope on the internet for a few years now, but there isn’t much evidence supporing the theory. A study by Harvard Prof. Ben Edelman released earlier this year suggested that “search bias” did exist. But the study’s author has served as a consultant on lawsuits against Google, and others, including SearchEngineLand’s Danny Sullivan, looked at the exact same data as Edelman and reached the opposite conclusion.
In any case, such allegations have Sen. Kohl’s attention. He wrote: “In recent years, the dominance over Internet search of the world’s largest search engine, Google, has increased and Google has increasingly sought to acquire e-commerce sites in myriad businesses. In this regard, we will closely examine allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking, and in their ability to purchase search advertising. We also will continue to closely examine the impact of further acquisitions in this sector.”