WSJ: Google Pushes YouTube over Video Rivals

AP Photo/Reed Saxon
AP Photo/Reed Saxon

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal alleges that when promoting video clips on its platform, Google gives a secret advantage to its own video streaming service, YouTube.

The WSJ reports that tech giant Google gives its video streaming service YouTube an advantage over other websites, a claim which if true would likely play a part in the current antitrust investigations into the tech giant. The WSJ gives examples of how Google’s search algorithm appears to give preferential treatment to YouTube clips over those from rival sites such as Facebook.

The WSJ writes:

Take a clip of basketball star Zion Williamson that the National Basketball Association posted online in January, when he made his highly anticipated pro debut. The clip was popular on Facebook Inc., drawing more than one million views and nearly 900 comments as of March. A nearly identical YouTube version of the clip with the same title was seen about 182,000 times and garnered fewer than 400 comments.

But when The Wall Street Journal’s automated bots searched Google for the clip’s title, the YouTube version featured much more prominently than the Facebook version.

The Journal conducted Google searches for a selection of other videos and channels that are available on YouTube as well as on competitors’ platforms. The YouTube versions were significantly more prominent in the results in the vast majority of cases. This isn’t by accident.

The WSJ claims that engineers at Google have made changes that automatically prefer YouTube to other video sources, according to individuals with knowledge of the matter. Google executives have reportedly made efforts to prioritize YouTube on the first page of search results in an effort to drive traffic to YouTube over competitors and to provide more leverage in business deals with content providers.

A source told the WSJ“All else being equal, YouTube will be first.” A Google spokesperson claimed that YouTube does not give preference to any video provider, including YouTube. “Our systems use a number of signals from the web to understand what results people find most relevant and helpful for a given query,” said Google spokesperson Lara Levin.

Breitbart News recently reported that the CEOs of major tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook have agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in relation to an ongoing investigation into possible anticompetitive conduct in the online marketplace.

Lawmakers will be given the chance to grill some of the tech industry’s wealthiest, most influential leaders over allegations that their companies have actively stifled competition, to the detriment of their users. This will be the first time the chiefs of all four major firms have testified alongside one another before Congress. The antitrust probe is being led by the House antitrust subcommittee and has focused mainly on the conduct of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google.

In June, Justice Department officials and state attorneys general met to discuss an antitrust probe of Google. The federal probe is focusing heavily on advertising. Breitbart News reported in November of 2019 that the attorneys general which are representing 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C will be writing up subpoenas known as civil investigative demands (CID) to support the investigations.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the probe, which initially focused mainly on Google’s advertising business. But at a recent meeting, Paxton expressed his support for expanding the purview of the investigation to include Google search and the company’s Android mobile operating system. Other states will be carrying out the investigation of search and Android separately.

When asked about the scope of the probe, a spokesperson for the Texas attorney general referred to a statement from October which reads: “At this point, the multistate investigation is focused solely on online advertising; however, as always, the facts we discover as the investigation progresses will determine where the investigation ultimately leads.”

It was reported just this week that Google’s own home state of California has opened an antitrust investigation into Google.  Politico wrote that the state has had of history of investigating Google for anticompetitive behavior. Politico writes:

Google has previously been in California’s crosshairs over antitrust concerns. In the early 2010s, California was among five states that investigated Google alongside the Federal Trade Commission over allegations the tech giant biased its search results to favor its own products. The FTC opted against filing an antitrust suit and closed its probe in January 2013. California and the other states, which included Texas, New York, Oklahoma and Ohio, later closed their probes in 2014.

California has its own antitrust laws, the Cartwright Act and the Unfair Competition Act, that are sometimes interpreted more broadly than the U.S. federal antitrust law. Unlike federal antitrust law, California’s laws do allow government enforcers to seek restitution or civil penalties for violations.

“The state also has a history of aggressively pursuing antitrust cases and has among the largest staffs of any attorneys general devoted to antitrust and competition issues,” Politico added.

Correction — This article is based on a report by the Wall Street Journal but mistakenly referred to the New York Times. 

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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