Google Under Government Pressure

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Google's chairman Eric Schmidt will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The tech company is under scrutiny for possible antitrust violations and uncompetitive practices.

Jeremy Hobson: If you're searching for Google's chairman Eric Schmidt today, you can find him in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. He'll be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a sensitive time for Google.

The company, which controls 65 percent of the web search market here in the U.S., is being investigated for possible antitrust violations and "uncompetitive practices". Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.

Steve Henn: If you ask Jamie Court at Consumer Watchdog how he'd like the ongoing federal investigations of Google to play out, he's pretty blunt.

Jamie Court: It has to be broken up by the government. Google is bigger than Ma Bell. It's gotten too big.

That outcome is almost unimaginable, but at the very least, today's hearings are a distraction for Google executives. Federal investigators are concerned that Google is using its dominant position in search to direct traffic to its own sites, like Google Maps or Google Places.

So if you Google 'hotels in Los Angeles' and hit enter, what pops up is a page full of results from Google Places. You have to scroll down the entire screen before you see any results from competing sites like Trip Advisor.

Herbert Hovenkamp is an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa, and he isn't convinced any of this violates antitrust law.

Herbert Hovenkamp: It's very, very easy and costless for customers to switch away from Google if Google is not serving them well.

There are lots of competing search engines out there from scrappy start-ups like DuckDuckGo to established players like Yahoo. And the outcome of any government investigation is expected to take years.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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