Google is getting off pretty easy: after a two-year investigation into Google's possibly anti-competitive antics, the Federal Trade Commission has ruled that Google hasn't done anything wrong, saying "evidence does not support a claim" that Google unfairly favors its own products in its search results. Even with that, the search giant has, however, agreed to change some of its practices. So, here's how it will try to be a less evil going forward.
The Complaint: Google was accused of taking content like restaurant reviews from elsewhere and leading readers to believe it came from Google. When these content creators complained, they said Google threatened to remove them from search altogether—"clearly problematic," to use the word's of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
The Fix: The search engine will now let these content creators opt-out of showing up in Google's search results.
The Complaint: Too many mobile-related lawsuits as a result of misused patents.
The fix: Google has to offer a license to any company that hopes to use its "essential" Motorola patents. On its own blog, Google explains that it will try to resolve patent disputes through "a neutral third party before seeking injunctions. This ruling is the only one enforceable by law.
The Complaint: Google had possibly changed its algorithm to favor certain low-quality sites over others.
The Fix: Case closed, as The Wall Street Journal live blog explains. "This investigation has been closed and the FTC don't seem very worried about these allegations."
The Complaint: Google’s contractual conditions governing the use of its API made it difficult for an advertiser to manage a campaign on AdWords and on competing ad platforms, and that these restrictions might impair competition in search advertising.
The Fix: Google will allow advertisers to use multiple advertising platforms.
And that's it. Google came out of this pretty unscathed and it knows it, as you can see from this smug response:
We’ve always accepted that with success comes regulatory scrutiny. But we’re pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google's business practices have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with web results. So we head into 2013 excited about our ability to innovate for the benefit of users everywhere.
Those hoping that the FTC would be harsher and do something about Google favoring its own products (Google+ and social search) over others have called the investigation "silly" and accused the FTC of having "rolled over" on this one. But, hey, at least Google is doing something?