Al Franken questions Google's internet search monopoly
Al Franken asked questions that Google CEO Eric Schmidt can't answer.
Al Franken loves Google. He just doesn't trust it.
That's what came out at yesterday's contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, which saw Google's CEO Eric Schmidt squirming a bit under the hot light of government oversight.
Franken, among other senators, expressed concern about Google's virtual monopoly of online searches, and the responsibility that comes with such a unique power. At one point, Franken made reference to a previous question put to Schmidt, asking whether Google's search rankings were unbiased. After some hesitation, Schmidt had answered, "I think so."
"If you don't know," Franken said, "who does? I, really -- that really bothers me, because that's the crux of this, isn't it? And you don't know."
The hearings were the very public part of the government's antitrust investigation into Google, which is accused by pretty much everyone of ranking its own services and companies higher than competitors' in its all-powerful online searches.
Franken had started out his questioning of Schmidt by saying he was a fan of the company.
"I want to start out by saying that I love Google," Franken said. "Google has utterly transformed the way we locate and use information.
"But in many ways," Franken went on, "Google's unprecedented growth and success is one of the reasons we need to pay attention to what you're doing."
Eric Schmidt: Google CEO, professional non-answerer.
Franken said he was "admittedly skeptical" of a company like Google, which is a one-stop location of information, which also controls the use of that information using means that it won't disclose.
"To me, that is the heart of the problem here," Franken said.
Franken's accusatory question, in which he made reference to the possibility of Google having biased search rankings, went unanswered by Schmidt, who simply nodded.
"So, Franken said, "we're trying to have a hearing here, about whether you favor your own stuff, and you're asked that question, and you admittedly don't know the answer."
Next, Franken made reference to Yelp, whose founder Jeremy Stoppelman also testified yesterday. Yelp accuses Google of burying its pages in searches in favor of Google's own content, as punishment for Yelp refusing a Google buyout.
Schmidt began, "I generally disagree with--"
"Generally," Franken interjected, cuttingly.
"--again, with Mr. Stoppelman's comments, and he'll have an opportunity to say what he'd like in a minute."
Indeed he did. When Stoppelman testified, he told the committee that if he knew what dealing with Google would be like, he never would've founded Yelp, the Washington Post reports.
"I would find something else to do," Stoppelman said.
Man, seems like everyone's pissed at Google now. Well, if you found this story thanks to Google, City Pages would like to thank Google for that, and tell Al Franken to stop picking on Eric Schmidt, a great American. If no one can find this story, City Pages sides with the junior senator from the state of Minnesota.
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