US drops search bias probe of Google

US regulators said Thursday they would not charge Google with illegal bias in Internet search, but won commitments from the tech titan to end its "most troubling" practices, officials said Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission said it was unable to bring a case against Google for manipulation of search results.

But it settled a separate case with Google that requires the company to allow rivals access to its patented technologies.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said the action concludes a 20-month probe of the Internet giant, accused by rivals of abusing its market dominance to snuff out competitors.

Leibowitz said that many of Google's critics "wanted the Commission to go further in this investigation and regulate the intricacies of Google's search engine algorithm."

But he said the FTC "exhaustively investigated allegations that Google unfairly manipulated its search engine results to harm its competitors," but found the evidence did not support an enforcement action.

"The facts weren't there under the law we apply," he said.

Even though some rivals dislike Google search, he said "it doesn't violate the American antitrust laws."

Still, he said Google made "enforceable commitments" to change some practices criticized by rivals in a voluntary settlement.

He said Google agreed to stop misappropriating "scraping" the content of its rivals that makes it appear as it it is from Google and to drop contractual restrictions that limited the ability of small businesses to advertise on competing search engines.

On the separate patent case, Google agreed to an order "to stop seeking to exclude competitors using essential patents," mainly from Motorola, which Google purchased, the FTC chief said.

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