Google knowingly manipulates search results according to a research paper published Monday from several academics. The study presents evidence that the search giant sets out to hamper competitors and limit consumers' options. The paper lands as Google prepares to release its response to the European Union investigation, which rests on similar claims about Google's comparison-shopping product. (Tweet this)
The paper was authored by Tim Wu, the legal scholar and former FTC adviser, which is notable as he had previously penned a column in the New Republic saying that Google had successfully cleared a Federal Trade Commission investigation into search bias on its own merits, and not because of its lobbying prowess.
Now, two years later, Wu is making an about-face.
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"When the facts change, your thinking should change," Wu told Re/code about the evolution of his stance. "The main surprising and shocking realization is that Google is not presenting its best product. In fact, it's presenting a version of the product that's degraded and intentionally worse for consumers."
He added: "This is the closest I've seen Google come to [being] the Microsoft case."
For Wu, the facts that changed came from Yelp. The local reviews company — and longstanding Google adversary — built a browser plugin meant to recreate Google's organic search page stripped of its OneBox, the listings and map pairing Google began inserting in 2009 for searchers that triggers local results. Yelp named the alternative search results "Focus on the User," after the anti-Google campaign it and other companies like TripAdvisor launched last year to convince EU regulators to move on an antitrust suit.