The hearing was focused on “Examining Self-Preferencing by Digital Platforms.”
Luther Lowe, Yelp’s senior vice president of public policy, told senators that the search engine tech giant often favored its own products in searches. Yelp, which delivers local search results for users looking for restaurant recommendations and more, said Google’s apparent favoritism could lead to users accessing items of lesser quality.
Yelp’s concerns are not isolated. Regulators and lawmakers across the political spectrum have raised similar concerns, questioning the power Google can have over smaller companies all but forced to use its services. The hearing Tuesday was a further example of how Yelp’s complaints have finally gained traction — lawmakers are beginning to introduce measures to curb try to Google’s power.
Lowe, at the hearing, acknowledged that Google hadn’t always tried to snuff out the competition. He brought up a 2004 claim by co-founder Larry Page, who said the company “want[s] to get you out of Google and to the right place” as fast as possible.
Lowe said that only lasted until around 2007 or so, when the company introduced “OneBoxes” that showed what Google seemed to think were the most relevant search results for each individual inquiry.
That addition, Lowe said, allows Google to “condition” consumers to expect the best or most relevant search results from across the web, even though Google had physically demoted non-affiliated content even if said content was more relevant to the search inquiry.
Yelp gets about 80 percent of its search traffic from Google. Some of the results pushed down by Google’s methods included Yelp results.
In a statement to CNBC, a Google spokesperson said the search feature was built for the users, and the company is constantly improving how the search features work.