As a go-to search engine and powerful online advertiser, Google has great influence over online consumers. But is this influence illegal? As Google has moved beyond search and search advertising and into online commerce and local reviews, antitrust officials have become suspicious. Regulators in the U.S. and Europe are conducting inquiries into whether Google is using its power to stifle competition—specifically whether the company uses its search engines to favor offerings like Google Shopping and Google Plus Local over rivals.
This is the most exhaustive investigation of a major corporation since the pursuit of Microsoft in the late 1990s, The New York Times reports. The Federal Trade Commission has recommended an antitrust suit against Google, but the commissioners must vote to proceed—and even then, the government and Google could settle. Still, many smaller websites that rely on Google for Web traffic fear the company is using its elusive search algorithm to purposely supress competition.