Court Fines Google $2.9 Billion For Censoring Small Independent Outlets

Sunday, February 18, 2018
By Paul Martin

Sean Adl-Tabatabai
February 17, 2018

Google has been found guilty of censoring their search results and forced to pay $2.9 billion dollars in compensation, in a historic European lawsuit.

According to European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, Google abused its monopoly over the Internet by deciding to manipulate their search results in order to destroy a small business. reports: Watching the livestream 500 metres away in the Thon Hotel EU, Adam and Shivaun Raff shared a smile of relief. It had been 11 gruelling years since they realised Google was deliberately demoting their price comparison website, Foundem, in search results. Eight years since they brought their complaint to the European Commission, becoming the first plaintiffs in the case against the search firm (others include Yelp, Expedia and Deutsche Telecom.) Now, at long last, they had justice.

But the British couple didn’t celebrate. That’s not their way. “If you embark on something like this you can’t really be a victory or despair personality, because you’d burn out,” says Shivaun, 49. “We insist on it being dispassionate.” Their company was destroyed, their lives bent out of shape – but the pair insist the campaign’s been worth it. “It would have been wrong to back out,” says Adam, 51. “So we just did the right thing.”

From their tidy, white-brick home in the suburban village of Crowthorne, Berkshire, the Raffs pursued the most valuable company in the world all the way to Brussels and the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC – and won. The experience has taught them caution: they rarely speak on the record, and then only with care-fully-prepared quotes. Now, in the wake of the Competition Commission’s verdict, they have agreed to speak about the story behind the defining case of the internet age.

Competition abuse is difficult to understand, because its victims are usually invisible. Their presence is measured in absences: businesses abandoned; careers unfulfilled; innovations stifled at birth. Today, Foundem’s website is the digital equivalent of a boarded-up house. But when the Raffs created it in 2005, it represented a technological epiphany: a search engine for the parts of the internet Google couldn’t reach.

The idea came to Adam one day as he smoked a Silk Cut outside his office, where he ran the European weather-forecasting service’s supercomputers. With Shivaun, a consultant who managed software projects for clients such as Boots and General Motors, he’d been tinkering with an idea for a location-based dating app – Tinder before the fact. Suddenly, Adam realised the same method of narrowing down searches could be used to sort the vast iceberg of deep data hidden in the databases behind websites. A single configurable system could search and retrieve everything from property to flights to TV sets.

The Rest…HERE

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