Government oversight can be a rather sticky wicket to undo when the need for it is finished, but in the case of internet and social media giants, an argument can be made for its necessity to protect freedoms guaranteed in our founding documents.
Google, the most pervasive of all of the search engines, and the basis for one of the main operating systems for wireless devices are one of the parties guilty of writing search engine algorithms that skew results in favor of specific outcomes is now in the crosshairs of at least one state attorney general. He’s asking a court to declare the internet staple to be a utility and for it to be treated as such.
The Hill reports that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare tech giant Google a public utility. If Google is declared a public utility, the company would become subject to government regulation.
Yost’s complaint was filed in Delaware County Court and alleges that the Silicon Valley titan has used its dominance as a search engine to prioritize its own products and services over “organic search results” in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.”
Yost said in a statement: “Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products–that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive. When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”
Public Utilities Definition:
Businesses that provide the public with necessities, such as water, electricity, natural gas, and telephone and telegraph communication.
A public utility is a business that furnishes an everyday necessity to the public at large. Public utilities provide water, electricity, natural gas, telephone service, and other essentials. Utilities may be publicly or privately owned, but most are operated as private businesses.
Typically a public utility has a Monopoly on the service it provides. It is more economically efficient to have only one business provide the service because the infrastructure required to produce and deliver a product such as electricity or water is very expensive to build and maintain. A consequence of this monopoly is that federal, state, and local governments regulate public utilities to ensure that they provide a reasonable level of service at a fair price.
The complaint alleges that because of the company’s “self-preferencing Results-page architecture,” almost two-thirds of Google searches in 2020 were complete without users leaving Google-owned platforms. This means that users never left the search page or found the answers they were looking for on another Google platform such as YouTube, Google Flights, Google Maps, Google News, Google Shopping, or Google Travel.
Wow. Someone with the power to do something about this vertical integration has actually taken steps to stop it.
Labeling Google a utility is not an Antitrust case, but if it stops the unfair and illegal practices, it will work.
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