The Senate is about to debate whether Google is evil. The search giant's competitors, including Yelp, have come out swinging, and they seem to have a good case.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's anti-trust subcommittee just began a hearing (live stream here and here) on whether Google abused its search monopoly to promote its own websites, in violation of federal law. Google pimps its movie showtimes, restaurant reviews, shopping site, and weather and mapping services via special placement in search results, as we illustrated in June after the Federal Trade Commission began investigating the company. Today Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman posted his written testimony, which says, "Google forces review websites to provide their content for free to benefit Google's own competing product... Google then gives its own product preferential treatment... Google will always present links to its own consumer review website in the most prominent position regardless of whether the algorithm has actually determined that it has the most relevant content."
That's hard to dispute, given that most of Stoppelman's statements consists of basic, verifiable facts on how Google operates. Travel website Expedia and shopping site Nexttag have similar complaints. It will be fun watching Google Chairman Eric Schmidt try and paint his company as a hero of consumers and of open commerce. That usually doesn't end well for him.
[Photo of Schmidt via Getty]