(And very few workers like it hot at Amazon)
Research released last night in the US strongly suggests that Google is one of the least-trusted corporate organisations in the US. Conducted by Fairsearch.org, it raises serious and important issues about Google, its influence on searcher behaviour, and whether the search giant’s actions are deliberately hindering competition.
Facing as it does Federal Trade Commission and Senate enquiries at the moment, the new study shows that 79% of Americans aprrove of this action, and nearly half ‘strongly approve’ of the investigations. Over 3 in 5 (63%) say it is unfair for Google to use the profits it makes from its dominant position in search advertising to buy smaller, innovative companies at an early stage, preventing them from becoming competitors. 84% say it is unfair for Google to take content from other websites and present it as its own, depriving these other websites of potential consumer traffic. And 75% said it was unfair for Google to raise prices for advertising without notice and to favour large e-commerce companies over small local businesses.
I’ve long maintained that Google uses spoiling tactics. After The Slog left its clutches last year, they immediately broke the forwarding link to my new site. It was restored after a national newspaper started poking around the story. I’ve had unauthorised Google ads on my site dozens of times. The only other Slog of any size – a listings sheet in Seattle – comes before mine on the English server….despite the UK Slog being seventh in the Total Politics unaligned listings. And last week Google disabled my Gmail account used to communicate with Slog loyalists.
Yelp, for example, has long dominated Google search results. But the prime territory at the top of Google search results that Yelp could once lay claim to is now frequently taken over by Google’s own listings.
Once you’re taking stuff inhouse, this kind of thing is bound to happen. It’s not illegal as such, but just like Newscorp, the Google instinct is to remove competitors, and make their monopoly ever tighter in every sector. US Federal authorities have several anti-trust investigations against Google, but the company’s moral position would be easier if it didn’t stick that ol’ glass chin out there by saying ‘Do No Evil’. Google searches are supposed to be unbiased and based on statistics. They aren’t: a growing group of critics and competitors assert that Google now uses search to bring traffic to its own new sites in travel, shopping and dining that are playing a significant role in Google’s overall business.
“Google is not just competing, but cheating. They are manipulating the search results,” says Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer who acted against Microsoft in the 1990s. He now represents several Google competitors, including ShopCity and Foundem, that claim to be affected by Google’s policies.
Google maintains on its blog that it does not have a policy of promoting its own content in search results, but strives to “deliver the best answers to users” and “never [takes] actions to hurt specific websites for competitive reasons. We rank search results to deliver the best answers to users, and that is the only consideration -– not political viewpoints, and not advertising dollars”.
You can just bet that have a ‘zero tolerance policy’ to that sort of thing.
Fine words, but the Feds are not so sure. The Federal Trade Commission has begun investigating whether the company unfairly promotes its own offerings or manipulates ads to the disadvantage of other businesses.
Congress has its doubts too: a Senate panel yesterday convened the first session of an antitrust hearing called “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?”
Meanwhile, Gary Reback’s clients vying with Google’s own offerings on its site accuse the company of using backhanded tactics to crush rivals. Sites like Nextag, Kayak, Trip Advisor and Yelp have argued publicly that by putting its own results ahead of others, Google stands to squelch the competition by making it more unlikely that users will have reason to visit these third-party sites.
And now, even the mighty Microsoft has joined their advocacy group FairSearch.org.
Fairsearch describes its mission as to ‘raise awareness of how Google threatens competition and consumer choice’. It also directly accuses the Googlies of using “dominance to foreclose competitors from the search marketplace”.
And of course, the fear-factor can’t be discounted: some companies allege there is a reluctance to speak out against Google for fear of reprisal.
“Kayak was initially reluctant ever to speak out against Google because we did not want retaliation by such a formidable company,” a spokesperson said. “They control the algorithm in terms of where we show up on the page and where we show up in paid search ads. They’re very influential in the market.”
Oh dear. The accents of the executives have changed. But it’s all horribly familiar, isn’t it?
See something similar going on at The Slog’s dedicated Hackgate page.
Few online giants appreciate the white heat of competition like Amazon. And boy, can it get hot in their warehouses.
Workers in an Amazon.com warehouse are routinely sent to First Aid because of suffocating heat that sometimes exceeds 110 degrees…..because Amazon refuses to open warehouse doors, fearing theft, according to a devastating exposé in the Allentown, Pennsylvania Morning Call. After workers, an E.R. doctor and a security guard complained, federal regulators investigated the warehouse and recommended changes.
Featured in the Morning Call piece is a gentleman by the name of Elmer Goris. More from Allentown whistleblower:
One hot day, Goris said, he saw a co-worker pass out at the water fountain. On other hot days, he saw paramedics bring people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers. “I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one,” Goris said. “They can do that because there aren’t any jobs in the area.”
Goris’ complaints are not unique.
Over the past two months, The Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get…
Bad enough without any sequel this one, but the response from Amazon – and its cheesy wording – sums up the cynicism of contemporary corporate life to a tee: the company has taken large ads in the area proclaiming that it is ‘seeking an onsite medical representative to provide first aid treatment to injured employees’. The ad headline suggests Amazon’s new man will be on the premises dealing with accidents.
Well, they’ve hired him. Allegedly, he isn’t onsite. And the ‘cases’ with which he deals are no accident.
Chimneys, small children, mines, canaries etc etc.