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Google grilled on ad business dominance by U.S. Senate panel

Google grilled on ad business dominance by U.S. Senate panel

Alphabet Inc.’s Google faced thorny bipartisan questions about its ad business at a hearing held on Tuesday, paying particular attention to whether it abused the dominant position of online advertising to boost profits.

Senator Mike Lee, a Republican and chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, pressed Google’s Don Harrison, who testified remotely, about the company’s domination of the interlocking business that link advertisers with newspapers, websites and other companies who are looking to host them.

“With the growth of business, there are more and more complaints, because Google not only operates advertising trading platforms, but also sells its own advertising resources through these platforms there is a conflict of interest, and manipulated online ad technologies and auctions to favor its own interest,” Lee said.

He and others put pressure on Harrison, asking advertisers to complain that Google is not clear about where advertising revenue is going, especially for publishers and for Google.

Harrison took over as the head of Google’s corporate development department in 2012. He believes that the ad technology ecosystem is overcrowded and highly competitive. Together with Inc. and Facebook Inc., AT&T, Comcast and other Google’s powerful competitors, and the price of placing an ad had fallen.

The technology giant has made a series of acquisitions, including DoubleClick and AdMob, to make it the dominant player in online advertising.

Lee’s concern was echoed by fellow Republicans like Senator Josh Hawley as well as Democrats, such as Senators Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the panel, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to people familiar with the matter, the reason for the hearing is that President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit against Google within weeks.

Blumenthal said that the task of defending Google is “thankless” because Google plays many roles between buyers and sellers of online advertising.

He said: “In a truly free market and free enterprise system, this seems unacceptable. That’s why I want to take antitrust enforcement against Google.”

He said: “(It) seems unacceptable in a truly free market and free enterprise system, that’s why I hope there will be antitrust enforcement against Google.”

Klobuchar, whose father is a journalist, is worried that, due to Google’s dominance, newspapers will not be able to generate enough income from advertisements on its website.

“I literally don’t have personal grudges against these companies, like sometimes the president has expressed about various companies. I don’t,” she said. “I just want our capitalist system to work.”

Although conservative bias is not protected by antitrust law, Hawley-backed Senator Lee asked Harrison about Google’s threat of removing a conservative publication from its ads, and banning certain conservative commentators from making money on Google’s YouTube.

Google’s Harrison said the company violated policies, such as prohibiting the placement of ads next to racist or similar content.

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Google grilled on ad business dominance by US Senate panel

Prepared by: Vivian Lee

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