Google isn't evil, says Bork's analysis of antitrust complaints

Google's search business practices, currently under scrutiny by regulators around the world, were defended this week in a paper by former federal appeals court Judge Robert H. Bork and J. Gregory Sidak, chairman of Criterion Economics.

In a 29-page report [PDF], the authors argue that claims by Google's rivals that its search practices violate antitrust law "contradict real world experiences in search."

Those claims, Bork and Sidak contend, "demonstrate [the] competitors' efforts to compete not by investing in efficiency, quality or innovation, but by using antitrust law to punish [a] successful competitor."

The authors maintain that Google's search and ranking algorithms are not unfair in any way; they're just part of the search giant's successful competitive practices. "Punishing Google for being the most effective search competitor would harm consumers and does contradict the recognized purpose of antitrust law," Bork and Sidak write.

It would put a crimp in the existing "dynamic competition" in the online search market, they maintain. Restricting such competition would hurt those consumers and advertisers, they add.

"Antitrust intervention that would prohibit or circumscribe Google's practices would punish and therefore deter the same welfare-enhancing innovations that have made Google an effective competitor," they wrote. "Such use of antitrust law would weaken dynamic competition, as only successful firms would need to worry about being penalized for being winners."

"Losers do not face monopolization suits for having lacked a superior product, business acumen or the benefits of a historic accident," they add.

'No incentive' to abuse position

Despite the complaints of Google's competitors, Bork and Sidak assert that the search giant has no incentive to act anticompetitively. "That consumers can switch to substitute search engines instantaneously and at zero cost constrains Google's ability and incentive to act anticompetitively," the report states.

The same is true about its rivals' complaints that Google specialized search is foreclosing vertical search providers, such as Amazon, Yelp, and Next Tag, from the market by making Google specialized search results higher on search pages than those of its competitors.

Google's search results include standard returns and those with paid placement.

"As a matter of economic analysis, however, Google has no incentive to foreclose competitors from search because doing so is unlikely to offer additional profit at the potential cost of driving away consumers," Bork and Sidak contend.

The authors dismiss all anticompetitive claims against Google as an attempt by its rivals to advance their own self-interest, noting, "Given the serious factual, logical and economic flaws in the antitrust complaints about Google's practices, one can reasonably conclude only that Google's competitors are seeking to use antitrust laws to protect their own market positions."

Punishing Google for its business practices, they add, "would necessitate regulation of search algorithms and product improvements, which would retard the current pace of innovation in Internet search that has created enormous gains in consumer welfare."

Antitrust allegations against Google have been the focus of global regulators for months. In the United States, the Senate has convened hearings on the subject and the Federal Trade Commission is conducting an ongoing probe of the search giant.

In addition, the European Union and India are probing allegations of anticompetitive practices by Google.

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