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Fact-Checking Google: Is There Really Still A Question of Google's Monopoly Power?

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt starts off his responses to questions posed by Senator Richard Blumenthal for the record after the Sept. 21 Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on “The Power of Google” by writing,  “I would disagree that Google is dominant.”

Wait, weren’t we all on the same page during the hearing? Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl asked at the time: “Your market share constitutes monopoly…Do you recognize you’re in that area?” Schmidt replied: “I would agree, Senator, that we’re in that area.”

What changed since Schmidt admitted to Kohl that Google had (at least) “a special responsibility to debate all the issues”?

Well, for one, Schmidt is trying to broadly redefine the relevant market for search services. Schmidt says, “we find that the monthly general search query figures released by comScore and Hitwise don’t reflect the reality of how many sites Google competes with in search. Google has many competitors that are not general search engines, including specialized search engines, social networks, and mobile apps. So inferring that Google is in any way ‘dominant’ in search would be incorrect.”

But Clint Boulton at eWeek characterized Schmidt’s flip-flop well: “To anyone who watched the hearing, it comes off as a terrible lie, because Google has essentially taken the definition of the search market — i.e. versus Bing, Yahoo, etc. — and stretched it to incorporate several more sources not included in comScore, et al.”

Furthermore, it isn’t up to Google to decide.  Google’s already been found by law enforcement agencies to have monopoly power. In 2010, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (in commenting on Google’s infamous books settlement,) stated that, “Google already holds a relatively dominant share in [online search].” It’s worth noting Google’s settlement was rejected by federal Judge Denny Chin in March, who ruled it would have given Google a “de facto monopoly.”

And while a Columbia Law Professor, Tim Wu (now an advisor in the Office of Policy and Planning at the FTC) said in The Wall Street Journal, “I don’t think anyone can deny that Google has a monopoly over the search engine market. It is reminiscent in my mind of AT&T in the 1920s.”

What next? Is Schmidt going to attempt to claim that Google’s Universal Search policy doesn’t favor Google’s own products and services above all other sites? Right, he did that too in his written responses to the Subcommittee.