Google search guru in Washington to lobby against Internet search engine rules
Google search engine guru Matt Cutts met with members of the Federal Trade Commission and staff on Capitol Hill this week to argue why the firm opposes federal rules on Internet search results.
The visit, what Cutts calls his "education tour," comes as Washington and Europe have been focusing on the search giant's business practices. European regulators have launched an investigation brought by complaints from some companies that Google has purposefully lowered their rankings, making it difficult to compete. The New York Times reports on E.U. queries to advertisers as it investigates those claims.
Critics in the United States, including competitors and some consumer groups, have called for "search regulation" to ensure Google doesn't unfairly prioritize its own partners and business lines in search results or lower those of other companies that may pose challenges for the firm. Cutts also plans to meet with consumer groups during the visit.
At a press briefing at Google's Washington offices, Cutts came armed with a 89-page slide presentation called "Search Integrity." He explained that while search results are based on an computer algorhythm for the most relevant results, engineers such as Cutts go into the search engine routinely to manually weed out spam and viruses.
"The only reasons I know of to go in and change [search rankings] manually is for security, a court order or spam," Cutts said. "It is impossible to pay for a better ranking."
He said the task of fighting spam is enormous. Of the 1 billion search queries done each day, the site also deals with 1 million spam pages each hour.
Competitors see Google's 60 percent share in the search engine market as an unfair advantage. The search firm's proposed merger with online travel software provider ITA is under review by U.S. regulators, and travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and TripAdvisor are lobbying the Justice Department against the deal. The companies say Google could choose to list its own travel sites higher on search results.
Phone giants Verizon and AT&T have argued that new rules on Internet access should include other Internet services such as search engines. Verizon executive vice president Tom Tauke has urged Congress to look at the "whole ecosystem" of Internet-related companies and other access points that consumers use to get information on the Web.
In its argument against rules for search engines, Google says the firm has already disclosed much about its search process.
"People choose to go to Google," Cutts said. "There is no barrier to entry, and with one click they can choose to go to another search engine,."
| January 13, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
Categories: Antitrust, Google
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