Breaking up Google?

“It’s not certain that Google will face a federal antitrust lawsuit by year’s end,” says Declan McCullagh in CNET News.

But if it happens,  he says,  “it seems likely to follow an outline sketched by Thomas Barnett, a Washington, D.C., lawyer on the payroll of Google’s competitors.

During a presentation, Barnett “laid out his arguments: Google is unfairly prioritizing its own services such as flight search over those offered by rivals such as Expedia, and it’s unfairly incorporating reviews from sites like Yelp without asking for permission.

They systematically  “reinforce their dominance in search and search advertising,” Barnett said during a debate on search engines and antitrust organized by the Federalist Society.

“Google’s case ought to have been brought a year or two ago.”

Expedia and Microsoft are part of Barnett’s so-called FairSearch.org coalition, which is lobbying against Google with the help of a former Microsoft lobbyist , says McCullagh.

Other FairSearch members include Google rivals Oracle, Nokia, and Hotwire, he says  observing,

“Yelp has not joined FairSearch, but CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has expressed similar concerns.

“The Democratic chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, took the unusual step of announcing a formal investigation into Google’s “search and search advertising” practices last month. Leibowitz predicted it would conclude by the end of 2012 — weeks before his term would end if Mitt Romney happens to be elected.

“Barnett, assistant attorney general for antitrust under George W Bush, believes if the FTC sues and wins, services like Google Flight Search should no longer be automatically placed near the top of the results.

“Google would be restricted from displaying results in a way that’s misleading or deceptive,” he said.

Barnett also raised the possibility  of breaking Google up,”cutting, severing, certain parts”   But, “I’m not saying that’s necessarily what’s called for here …”

The Justice Department tried to carve up Microsoft, but an appeals court didn’t buy it, McCullagh noted.

Stay tuned.

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

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