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Is Google Cooking It? Former DOJ Counsel Weighs In

One month ago today, the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing to investigate the “Power of Google.” No surprise, people are still talking about it.

Yesterday, Arusyak Abrahamyan of the Berkeley Law Blog asked one of the hearing’s most popular questions: “Is Google ‘Cooking’ it?” “Cooking it” of course being a reference to Google’s practice of manipulating its search results to favor its own products.

But before getting into the allegations of search manipulation, Abrahamyan asks a critical (and often overlooked) qualifying question: Does Google, with its 79% share of search and search advertising, wield monopoly power? Because, as she puts it, “holding a dominant position or a monopoly of a market, however, is not illegal in itself; rather, attempted monopolization is illegal.”

Now, there seems to be some back and forth on whether Google is, in fact, a monopoly. But the Berkeley post has a new perspective, Samuel R. Miller, UC Berkeley School of Law professor and a partner at Sidley Austin LLP. In fact, Miller was recruited by the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice as lead counsel in monopolization case against Microsoft.

What did Miller have to say?

“Having prosecuted the Microsoft case, its seems to me that Google, as a monopoly, is engaging in the same tactics to keep its dominant position as Microsoft was engaging in. Those are the same tactics that got Microsoft in trouble.”

Or, of course, we could take Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at his word when he was asked by Senator Kohl (D-WI) if Google was a monopoly.   Schmidt said:, “I would agree, Senator, that we’re in that area…We see ourselves as having a special responsibility…We do understand it.”