Professor Salinger in Forbes: Why the FTC Was Right Not To Sue Google
On January 10, Jacqueline J. and Arthur S. Bahr Professor of Management Michael Salinger‘s piece “Why the FTC Was Right Not to Sue Google” was featured in the Forbes Leadership Forum on Forbes.com. Salinger, a professor in the Markets, Public Policy & Law department, is a former Director of the Bureau of Economics at the United States Federal Trade Commission.
January 3 should go down as one of the most important and proudest moments in the history of United States antitrust enforcement. After a 19-month inquiry, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had voted unanimously to close its investigation into the design of Google’s search results. The FTC’s decision is a victory for Google, a defeat for those who tried to persuade the FTC to use the antitrust laws to hinder rather than promote competition, and a victory for Google users. It is not easy for a law enforcement agency to devote substantial resources to an investigation and then not bring a case, but sound antitrust enforcement dictates that it must do so when, as happened here, the investigation failed to uncover evidence of a violation.
To understand what was at stake in the case, go to Google and enter a query for “New York weather.” The top result will say “Weather for New York, NY,” with a minimal four-day forecast that may be sufficient for some users. Just below that will be links to sites that provide more detailed weather information. To the extent that users find the information provided directly by Google to be sufficient, weather sites might get less traffic. But Google users are better off, and that is the key point. As FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz explained about the FTC’s decision, the antitrust laws are supposed to protect competition, not individual competitors. And, far from being an antitrust violation, improving search results to get users the information they need is precisely the sort of competition the antitrust laws are supposed to encourage.
Read Salinger’s full piece on Forbes.com.
Banner image courtesy of flickr user Robert Scoble.