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Thursday, July 15, 2010

 
We Need "New York Times Neutrality"--NOT!
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I've long been a fan of Danny Sullivan, who edits Search Engine Land, and probably knows more about search engines than anyone outside the companies that actually run them. But my respect for his wit, eloquence and perspective  has reached new heights with his latest piece:  The New York Times Algorithm & Why It Needs Government Regulation, a lampoon of the NYT's foolish call for search neutrality in an editorial yesterday, turning the Times' arguments right back at them, and pointing out the hypocrisy by which the established press often tries to deny First Amendment protection to newcomers to the speech business. Danny's post is truly a masterpiece of satire, worthy of Jonathan Swift. But one section deserves special attention:

I've been covering the search space closely for nearly 15 years, from before Google itself even existed, so I have seen these types of claims far longer and examined them in far more depth than what went into that New York Times editorial.

My guess is that the editorial staff (the staff that writes the newspaper's editorials, which are opinion pieces, which is confusing when the newspaper also has an editorial staff that writes "editorial" stories elsewhere that are supposed to be unbiased) spent about an hour or so discussing recent Google news, then someone was probably assigned to write the editorial and invested all of about three hours on it.

That's not much time or care for a major and well-respected newspaper (in many quarters) to decide the government should evaluate "fairness" when it comes to making editorial judgments in search results, be they from Google or any other search engine.


I'm afraid Danny's right. What a shameful day for the "Grey Lady." Anyway, here are a few of the pieces Adam and I have written about the dangers inherent in the seductive idea of search neutrality:

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:37 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy

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Comments

The ironic thing is that the New York Times is at least being consistent. It sees all players in telecommunications and the Internet as entities with market power and/or engaging in anticompetitive practices, and hence favors regulation of all of them.

The truth, however, is that it got it wrong the first time (on "network neutrality") and right the second time (on "search neutrality"). ISPs and telcomm companies face fierce competition and therefore do not generally have market power. They should only be regulated in situations where they engage in anticompetitive practices (e.g. ILECs foreclosing competition via exorbitant pricing of
"special access" lines).

Google, on the other hand, enjoys multiple worldwide Internet monopolies -- on Internet search, Internet search advertising, Internet banner advertising, and Internet video -- and thus does have market power in these areas. It therefore should be subject to regulation if it attempts to leverage these monopolies to create others and/or engage in anticompetitive practices -- both of which it has done.

Those of us who believe in free markets, but also recognize that they CAN be broken or destroyed, believe that government should step in only in the presence of anticompetitive behavior and/or the willful destruction of free markets. This is a healthy balance between a "religious" belief that markets are invulnerable (they are not) and the New York Times' stance that there must always be regulation.

Posted by: Brett Glass at July 20, 2010 8:44 PM

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