Google grilled on its advertising business dominance by US Senate

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Google faced a number of tough questions about its advertising business in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, with a specific focus on whether it misused its dominance in online advertising to drive earnings.

Senator Mike Lee, a Republican and chair of the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, driven Google’s Don Harrison, who testified remotely, about the company’s dominance of the interlocking businesses which connect advertisers with newspapers, websites and other companies seeking to sponsor them.

He and others pressed Harrison on advertiser complaints that Google was opaque about where ad dollars travelled, especially how much went to publishers and just how much to Google.

Harrison, who took over as part of Google’s corporate development in 2012, argued that the ad tech ecosystem was competitive and crowded, together with Amazon.com and Facebook, AT&T, Comcast and many others among Google’s strong competitors, and that the price of placing an ad had dropped.

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The tech giant made a series of purchases, such as DoubleClick and AdMob, to help make it the most dominant player in online advertising.

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

The hearing was held as President Trump’s Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit against Google within weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Blumenthal called the job of protecting Google “thankless” because of the numerous functions it plays between buyer and sellers in online advertising.

“(It) seems unacceptable in a really free market and in a free enterprise system which is why I hope there will be antitrust enforcement directed against Google,” he explained.

Klobuchar, whose dad was a journalist, expressed concern that papers did not get sufficient revenues from advertisements placed on their websites because of Google’s dominance.

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I don’t,” she said.

“I just want our capitalist system to work.”

While conservative bias is not insured by antitrust law, Senator Lee, endorsed by Hawley, contested Harrison about Google’s threat to drop a conservative book from its own advertising and bar a few conservative commentators from earning money on Google’s YouTube.

Google’s Harrison said the companies involved had violated policies, like those against putting advertising beside racist or similar content.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Diane Bartz. Additional reporting by Paresh Dave. Editing by Tom Brown.

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