Under a separate commitment, Google has agreed to remove restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform, AdWords, that may make it more difficult for advertisers to coordinate online advertising campaigns across multiple platforms. Some FTC commissioners were concerned that Google's contractual conditions governing the use of its API made it more difficult for an advertiser to simultaneously manage a campaign on AdWords and on competing ad platforms, and that these restrictions might impair competition in search advertising. In today's agreement, Google will give websites the ability to opt out of display on Google category-specific websites, such as for travel.
Under the same commitment, Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google's category-specific search offerings while still having them appear in Google's general Web search results. The FTC investigated allegations that Google misappropriated content, such as user reviews and star ratings, from competing websites to improve its own category-specific offerings, such as Google Local and Google Shopping. Some FTC commissioners were concerned that this conduct might chill firms' incentives to innovate on the Internet.
The FTC also investigated whether Google had manipulated its search algorithms to harm category-specific websites and unfairly promote its own competing properties, a practice commonly known as "search bias," particularly in Google's Universal Search offering, which prominently displays targeted Google properties in response to specific categories of searches, such as shopping and local. The investigation also looked to see if Google altered its search algorithms to demote certain category-specific websites in an effort to reduce or eliminate nascent competitive threats. But the FTC concluded that the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google’s search algorithms -- even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors -- could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google's product and the experience of its users. It therefore chose to close the investigation.
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