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Google faces Senate hearings that it stiffles Yelp! and other competitors. [Watch live on C-Span]

September 21, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

Google

us_senate

In the U.S. Senate hearings set to investigate claims that Google is anti-competitive, Yelp will accuse the search giant of stealing its content and punishing the review site for complaining about the practice.

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has already released his prepared testimony that he will use to address Congress, as well as a collection of slides that show what he alleges is Google’s anti-competitive behavior. According to Stoppelman, Google agreed to license Yelp reviews until 2007 when the company launched Google Local, which became Places, a direct competitor to Yelp’s restaurant and business reviews.

However, Google continued to use Yelp’s content and told Yelp that it would continue to do so unless Yelp.com no longer permitted Google’s bots to crawl the website. That would in turn kill Yelp’s Google ranking and business, which obviously is not a feasible solution. The problem was further compounded, according to Stoppelman, by Google’s practice of placing its own products at the top of search results regardless of the quality and relevance in comparison to other products.

Yelp Logo

“Is a consumer (or a small business, for that matter) well served when Google artificially promotes its own properties regardless of merit?” Stoppelman asks in his prepared statements. “This has nothing to do with helping consumers get to the best information; it has everything to do with generating more revenue.”

Google has already made a blog post that seeks to combat these characterizations. Downplaying a number of expected accusations, the Google Competition blog had this to say in the “A Guide to the Senate Judiciary Hearing”

Every search engine has shifted toward providing more answers directly in the search results — because it’s what consumers want. Microsoft and search experts agree.
Can you spot any differences how Bing, Yahoo! and Google answer these queries?

[Bing result] [Yahoo! result] [Google result]
(we can’t either…)

Nextag CEO Jeff Katz will join Stoppelman to testify in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt will be on hand to defend Google and its actions. Also at issue will be the search giant’s actions related to Search, YouTube, Google Books, and Google Travel. (Though its not listed on any agenda I’ve seen, you can bet Android will be a point of discussion as well.)

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, September 21, 2 PM Eastern. C-Span 3 will broadcast the hearings live. Check your local listings for to confirm time and channel, or watch it online at http://www.c-span.org/Live-Video/C-SPAN3.