The results of an investigation by the FTC into Google, obtained by the Wall Street Journal and reported on by The Verge, reveal that Google has allegedly manipulated its search results in a way has stifled its competition.
The investigation eventually ended with a settlement, but the commission wanted to take legal action against the search giant, stating:
“Google “adopted a strategy of demoting, or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories.”
Google agreed to alter these practices, but contends that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. However, one example taken from the report is that Google would give a boost to results from its own properties over results from its competitors. So Google Shopping would rank above Amazon, Google+ Local would rank above Yelp, and so on.
The reason why Google says it was not doing anything wrong is because rival search engines have been known to do the same thing.
Here’s where the lines get blurred a little bit, the report goes on to say Google threatened to remove companies entirely from search results when they complained about Google’s ranking practices. The companies backed down as a result of the threat.
Other revelations from the report include allegations that Google prevented websites that publish its search results from working with competitive search engines. The FTC also claims Google refused to let advertisers take the data obtained from their own Google advertising campaigns and use it with other advertising services.
Since the FTC didn’t take legal action, Google has not made any major changes to its ranking practices, and at this point the company is not legally obligated to do so.