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Google's Schmidt: "we've not cooked anything"

Google's Eric Schmidt denied claims in a Senate hearing that the search giant uses its clout to promote its own services above competitors.

"Don't be evil" may be Google's mantra, but those outside the company aren't so sure it's abiding by it. Yesterday executive chairman Eric Schmidt denied allegations the company uses its search engine to favour its own products and services over competitors, Reuters reports.

Responding to the accusation from Republican senator Mike Lee that the company "cooked" results to do down its rivals, Schmidt said, "Senator, may I simply say that I can assure you we've not cooked anything." He also said the company was nothing like Microsoft, and it'd learned the lessons of its predecessors.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel said because of the dominance of Google's search algorithm, the company's power goes unchecked. "Google is in a position to determine who will succeed and who will fail on the Internet," senator Lee said. "In the words of the head of the Google's search ranking team, Google is the biggest kingmaker on Earth."

Lee produced a chart comparing the success rate of shopping-related keyword searches. He said price-comparison sites varied in position, while Google's shopping site was always ranked third. "I don't know whether you call this a separate algorithm or whether you've reverse engineered one algorithm, but either way you've cooked it, so that you're always third."

Schmidt denied the accusation, saying Google operates in a competitive environment, and that he was confident the FTC would clear the company of any wrongdoing. "While no company would request such a government investigation, we are confident that our business practices will stand up to scrutiny," he said.

He claimed the dominance of social-networking sites such as Facebook played a big part in influencing decisions. "Consumers, particularly young ones, increasingly are turning to their online friends to find out what to wear, where to eat and what to watch," he said.

He also referenced Microsoft's battles with trustbusters around the turn of the century that led the Department of Justice to try and break the company apart. He said, "We get it," referring to "the lessons of our corporate predecessors."

Continuing the Microsoft comparison, he stressed the open nature of the Internet, that it was unlike a computer's operating system in that people were free to try rivals' services.

"I ask you to remember that not all companies are cut from the same cloth, and that one company's past need not be another's future," he said.