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The Legal, Morality and Social Responsibility of Google's Anti-Trust Policies

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Integrating Values -

The Legal, Morality, and Social Responsibility of

Google's Anti-Trust Policies

Integrating Values - The Legal, Morality, and Social Responsibility of

Google's Anti-Trust Policies

Google has been the focus of the news lately with accusations and investigations of violating anti-trust laws. Typing in "Google Anti-Trust" in any online search engine (including Google) brings up hundreds of articles, links and websites which show just how popular the topic is. This paper analyzes the legal, ethical and social responsibility issues that Google has been forced to deal with and be accountable for since they have grown to such a powerful force in the online industry. Online advertising, the arena that Google leads the field in, has such dominance over the competition that the world is noticing. When competition disappears, everyone but the winner suffers. In online advertising, what has happened is that Google has made it that the highest monetary bidder will get the most visitors to their websites.

The subject of online advertising has never been more relevant. With the introduction of computer tablets and more powerful Smartphone's, online search engines are what internet users depend on to sort through the millions of pages of information. When users get manipulated into getting responses paid by advertisers rather than what is more relevant, and at the same time are made to believe that the information is generated algorithmically without preferences, then legal, ethical and social responsibility issue lines are crossed. Best online practices are still being developed. Since Google is the leader in online advertising, analyzing how Google deals with the issues of illegal, unethical and social irresponsibility will have relevance on how our online behavior will change in the future.

While Google has enjoyed a lot of popularity and exponential growth, it has not come without drawbacks. Being a big company that is everyday entrenching itself with the online community gets a lot of attention. Accusations have attacked the very core of what the mission statement attempts to describe. Google is being accused of catering to money driven web searching as opposed to unbiased results that incorporate popularity, relevance and integrity of websites. The idea is to get you what you need, when you need it. When consumers believe that the results are not what they request, but the force feeding of advertising companies, then the foundation of Google is questioned and nothing good comes of that. Unpopular web sites and search engines soon disappear when no one visits them anymore.

Formally, Google is now under scrutiny from the U.S. Justice department that is investigating and monitoring Google's practices to see if they can prove or disprove the claims. (Bloomberg Online News) One positive outcome of the investigations is that standards and claims are now beginning to be addressed and responsible business is being enforced.

On another note, Google emerged in 1998, and has become one of the major "giants" within the internet world. As we all should know, Google is widely known as a search engine, but it's not just that; it also serves as advertising web page. Advertising is actually the leading revenue stream for Google. "Ad Words offers pay-per-click advertising, and side-targeted advertising for both text and banner ads. Google generates 97% of revenue from advertising" (Harber, 2008).

Google's strengths in its monetization plan that is to say that they focus primarily on what will bring the most revenue to the company. One of those things is the "cost-per-impression" where marketers are charged a fixed amount each time their ad was viewed, regardless of whether the viewer clicked on the ad" (Harber, 2008, pg. 110). Its weakness would be that there are other competitors such as Yahoo and MSN which are not giving up in the battle and will take any opportunity in order to surpass Google. When it comes to any business, one of the goals that business owners get to meet is to build visibility, getting their services and /or products in the market place. One of the most popular means of achieving visibility goals are paid listings.

There are several legal matters arising with Google- the world largest search engine provider. Google, Inc. is being investigated by the Department of Justice for advertisement of consumer's information. Google's action violated the "Anti-trust Law", according to the Department for Justices, and also violates privacy protection. There have been several discussion about how "Google communication landscape led to the application of existing Anti-trust laws along with new ones to force a Google breakup in 2010" (Sullivan, 2007).

Antitrust Law in the United States arose in the post Civil War environment. "In a trust, title to property came in effect be split into legal and equitable title, with the trustee, holding legal title to property, and maintaining and investing property as a fiduciary, for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust who possess equitable title to the property" (Cavico et al., 2008). Antitrust laws are in existence to protect consumers for competition! "There are several principal federal regulating bodies for antitrust laws are for the Antitrust laws are the Justice Department, specifically the Antitrust Division there of and the federal Trade Commission" (Cavico et al., 2008, pg. 469).

Google Inc. Antitrust issue appears to be very serious! There are several companies that have been complaining about how Google has been making seniority decision based on consumer's payment amount. For example, if I were to go Google's webpage and did a basic search for "lab-top"; I would instantly see a listing of companies in which I can purchase a lab-top. However, the companies listed are ranked based on the amount they are paying Google. If my companies paid a higher amount for advertisement from Google, then my companies would be itemized first. If my company paid a less amount, then my company would be on the bottom of the listing.

In addition, consumers feel as if they are being treated in an inequitable manner. According to BIG NEWS article, "European regulators have opened a wide-ranging probe into whether Google unfairly manipulates its search results to favor its own services and rigs it ad system to drive up prices. The Texas attorney general also has been looking into complaints about whether Google's search recommendations stifle



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