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March 30, 2015

Google Blasts Wall Street Journal

Tech Firm Takes Issue With Article Accusing FTC of Dropping Probe Into Google's Actions

Google has launched its own attack against the Wall Street Journal calling the publication’s articles accusing the search engine of “wielding undue political influence” completely inaccurate.

The search engine company, in a blog post, took the Journal to task for its articles reporting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) dropped an anti-trust investigation into Google after being pressured to do so by the White House.

Google, in its blog post agreed with the FTC’s assertion that the articles are full of “misleading inferences and suggestions about the integrity of the FTC’s investigation.”

The report from the Wall Street Journal painted a picture of Google schmoozing with top officials in a bid to make the probe go away.

The Journal reported Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page met with top FTC officials to discuss settlement talks while Google Chairman Eric Schmidt met in the White House with a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

Although the documents cited by the WSJ did not reveal what was discussed, the FTC did suspend its probe into Google not long after the meetings. That decision came despite a 2012 FTC report into Google’s actions revealed the search engine firm was, in fact, using its dominance as a search engine to snuff out the competition.

The search engine firm’s conduct, the report said, “helped it to maintain, preserve and enhance Google’s monopoly position in the markets for search and search advertising.”

The article elicited a snarky response from the FTC, which has denied being influenced by Google or the Obama administration. Now Google, in a blog post by communications and policy senior vice-president Rachel Whetstone, is attempting to address the Journal’s report.

The following is an excerpt from Whetstone’s post:

Given the inaccuracies that have been published, we wanted to give our side of the story. Here goes.

Wall Street Journal:

The findings [from the Bureau of Competition] stand in contrast to the conclusion of the FTC’s commissioners, who voted unanimously in early 2013 to end the investigation”.   

Google:

As the FTC made clear this week:  “… the Commission’s decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel” (something the Journal has chosen not to report).

Wall Street Journal:

“Since Mr. Obama took office, employees of the Mountain View, Calif., company have visited the White House for meetings with senior officials about 230 times …  In comparison, employees of rival Comcast Corp., also known as a force in Washington, have visited the White House a total of about 20 times … Google’s knack for getting in the room with important government officials is gaining new relevance as scrutiny grows over how the company avoided being hit by the FTC with a potentially damaging antitrust lawsuit”.

Google:

Of course we’ve had many meetings at the White House over the years.  But when it comes to the information the Journal provided to Google about these meetings, our employment records show that 33 of the White House visits were by people not employed here at the time.  And over five visits were a Google engineer on leave helping to fix technical issues with the government’s Healthcare.gov website (something he’s been very public about).  Checking through White House records for other companies, our team counted around 270 visits for Microsoft over the same time frame and 150 for Comcast.  

And the meetings we did have were not to discuss the antitrust investigation.  In fact, we seem to have discussed everything but, including patent reform, STEM education, self-driving cars, mental health, advertising, Internet censorship, smart contact lenses, civic innovation, R&D, cloud computing, trade and investment, cyber security, energy efficiency and our workplace benefit policies.  For example:  

  • Several visits were advertising industry meetings attended by Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others.  Yes, Microsoft, the main complainant in the FTC’s antitrust investigation;
  • Over a dozen visits were for production crews covering the YouTube interviews with the President following the State of the Union and photographing the White House art collection for Google’s Art Project;
  • One of the meetings specifically called out by the Journal was actually a meeting with our Chairman, Eric Schmidt, and Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, with several other technology companies to discuss copyright legislation (the draft SOPA/PIPA laws that were ultimately dropped by Congress).

It should be noted that Google accounted for only a portion of its White House visits — not all 230 of those reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps if Google truly wants to set the record straight, it should do a more thorough job of accounting for its White House visits.

And, as a New York Post article points out, Schmidt has close ties to the White House. on Election Night 2012, Google’s executive chairman was working in the president’s campaign office.

Obama aide David Plouffe told Bloomberg News that Schmidt, on election night, “was in our boiler room in Chicago,” where he “helped recruit talent, choose technology and coach the campaign manager, Jim Messina, on the finer points of leading a large organization.”

Also, the New York Post pointed out that Google employees gave more to Obama’s re-election than employees from any other company, with the exception of Microsoft.

So who to believe? The Wall Street Journal or Google. Until more definitive proof is made public, it really comes down to which entity people trust the most.


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Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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