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Schmidt defends Google to Congress: The hot-button issues

google courtGoogle chairman Eric Schmidt is currently in Washington defending his company in antitrust hearings that are investigating whether or not abuses have been made. Basically, the Senate Judiciary Committee is questioning whether or not Google is simply meeting consumer needs or if it’s purposefully trying to eliminate competition. Here are some of the more revealing question and answer segments from today’s hearing.

On cooking search results

Schmidt assured the room “we’ve not cooked anything.” Senator Mike Lee then asked why Google always comes in third for product-related search results. Schmidt responded, “I’d need to see the technical details to give you a direct answer.” He also tried to explain how Google product search has evolved. “Ten years ago [the best answer] might have been the ten links. But today it might be to algorithmically compute an answer. Speed matters. If we can calculate an answer more quickly, that might be better for the consumer.”

At one point, Senator Al Franken outright accused Google of boosting itself in search results. After a pause from Schmidt over whether or not Google uses a bias, Franken said “We are trying to have a hearing here about whether you favor your own stuff, and you admittedly don’t know the answer.” Franken then further called out Schmidt for his inability to answer and said, “If you don’t know, who does?”

If Google is a monopoly

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman spoke about Google’s effects on the industry. “I wonder if we would have been able to start Yelp today because of Google’s recent actions. Google hopes to be a ‘destination site’ rather than pointing people to other sites.” But Susan Creighton, a lawyer representing Google, argued the site is not a monopoly and that instead “it’s free and instantaneous” for users to switch to a competitor site.

On the illegal pharmacy search scandal

“We regret what happened and it was a mistake,” Schmidt said in response to Senator John Coryn’s question about Google’s $500 million criminal settlement regarding its many years promoting illegal pharmacies via AdWords. Schmidt could say nothing else because of the non-prosecution agreement except that it won’t happen again.

On piracy

Senator Amy Klobuchar questioned Schmidt about piracy and what Google’s doing about it. He admitted that though it’s a problem, Google is in a precarious position here. “We’re under great pressure to resolve this with a technical solution. It’s a very hard computer-science problem.” He at one point also said “we have to represent the Web how it is and not how we wish it to be.”

But in the fight against piracy and copyright violations on the Internet, Schmidt says a program where lifted work is struck from YouTube has been successful.

[You can watch the testimony live here.]