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Facing criticism, Google tries buffing its image

The company has begun a campaign to persuade Congress, academics, advertisers, the press, and others that competition is alive and well.

Google, having dealt with two major antitrust issues in 2008 and facing the potential of more to come, has begun a program to try to spruce up its image and show that competition is alive and well.

Consumer Watchdog on Friday plans to tout a Google presentation titled "Google, Competition, and Openness" (PDF) that the advocacy group uncovered. The company presentation (also embedded below) gives Google's views that it faces plenty of competition in a dynamic market.

Given the increasing profile of the search giant, especially in light of its ability to weather the economic storm better than most, it would be surprising if Google were not trying to mollify critics and show its best face to regulators. And indeed, not only did Google acknowledge that the document is its own, it also said it has been sharing it in an outreach campaign to Congressional aides, the press, think tanks, academics, advertising agencies, and ad trade associations, said spokesman Adam Kovacevich.

"We know we have to do a better job of explaining our approach to competition," Kovacevich said. "We're trying to do a better job of telling our story and listening to people as well."

Consumer Watchdog, which has been publicly tangling with Google over a health-care lobbying issue, sees things less charitably.

"Google's charm and spin should not be allowed to deter antitrust regulators from seeing the real problems with Google's dominance and setting appropriate limits to protect users," said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court in a statement. The organization also published an anonymous author's version of the presentation with critical commentary added on top (PDF).

Google overcame antitrust objections in its 2008 acquisition of DoubleClick, but later that year backed off a search-ad partnership with Yahoo when the Justice Department threatened an antitrust suit. More recently a proposed settlement of a class-action suit involving Google Book Search has caught the DOJ's attention again.

Here's Google's full presentation:

20090507 Google and Competition Preso