"Google search is not a neutral gateway to the information available on the web. Google search is a set of algorithms designed to make Google or Alphabet, its parent company the most money it can "
David Dinielli, former US Department Of Justice
According to a study from international digital and technology platform provider, Adzooma, when asked if Google employed any tricks to get more people to click on ads, an overwhelming 77.2% of people said yes.
Google recently followed Facebook as the latest tech company to come under fire, when the US Government put together the largest antitrust case towards a tech company in the past two decades, suing them for harming competition and preventing rivals from gaining a meaningful audience.
David Dinielli, former US Department Of Justice antitrust official, states: "Google search is not a neutral gateway to the information available on the web. Google search is a set of algorithms designed to make Google — or Alphabet, its parent company — the most money it can possibly make."
This isn’t the first time that Google has been hit with antitrust lawsuits either. Last year, the European Union hit Google with a €1.5 billion fine for abusing its position in search advertising by blocking its rivals from placing advertisements on third party websites.
According to Adzooma’s findings, despite the antitrust suits, 49.7% of respondents stated that they still viewed Google to be trustworthy. Yet, when participants were asked whether they thought Google employed any tricks to get more people to click on the ad, 77.2% of people said yes.
Some of these ‘tricks’ included not being obvious as to which results were adverts and which were organic results, particularly on the search result pages. Additionally, 10% of respondents said they didn’t know where ads are usually placed on a search page.
Another point from the research highlighted that people find that the page load times are flawed, so “as a search page loads, the ad link suddenly moves down beneath my cursor and I click it unwillingly”.
Google Ads is built on a system where more money doesn’t always equate to better advertising. It uses a Quality Score metric for the adverts, meaning those that are more relevant and 'trustworthy' are prioritised for their budget.
They promise to vet each advertiser and prevent harmful adverts from running to protect their users. However, that doesn’t mean their system isn’t abused.
Compare-apr-rates.com earned a top advertising spot, despite being on the Financial Conduct Authority’s consumer alert list of unauthorised firms. A website called The Money Premium Limited also ran ads on Google, despite the company not existing. They registered using the number of an electrical business in Essex and listed two fake financial awards as part of their advert.
It’s not just dishonest businesses that can get through on Google either. Earlier this year, the company was criticised for advertising ‘anti-coronavirus’ products, despite being banned.
Adzooma’s study revealed that 14.7% of people often see advertisements that they would class as harmful. Whilst 26.8% of people said that they sometimes saw harmful advertisements on a less frequent basis.
If over 40% of people are regularly seeing harmful advertisements get through Google’s ‘strict’ guidelines, then it’s worth calling into question how powerful these checks actually are.
Google has the biggest market share of all search engines. Despite all legal cases, it’s unlikely that they’ll give up the monopoly they have on the market.
In addition, this new case against them could result in more stringent checks and validation for advertisers to go through. Provided they aren’t promoting prohibited products, this may even lower the competition.
However, there is a lack of trust for some users, which may cause them to go elsewhere. If users leave Google, then Microsoft is next in line. Anything that harms Google is only set to benefit Microsoft.
With more lawsuits being filed against the tech giants, trust and privacy will be the most important factor for users.