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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
FairSearch.org is an anti-Google front group funded by Microsoft and major travel search sites. Besides Microsoft, FairSearch.org's funders include TripAdvisor, Travelocity, Kayak, Hotwire, Expedia, Sabre, Sidestep and several smaller travel search sites. The companies joined together to create FairSearch.org after Google purchased ITA Software, the company that developed and provided the member companies' fare-search technology. FairSearch.org writes on its website: "Based on growing concern that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition, we believe policymakers must act now to protect competition, transparency and innovation in online search."
An action alert posted on FairSearch.org generates a letter to elected officials ostensibly from concerned "consumers" protesting that Google's activities and saying those activities "threaten innovation" and online economic growth. The text of the letter reads:
As your constituent, I am writing to express my concern that Google is leveraging its enormous power in search and search advertising to maintain and extend its dominance at the expense of competition and consumers. Not only does Google’s anti-competitive behavior threaten innovation and economic growth online, it also limits consumer choice and often leads to higher prices. Now, more than ever, I believe Google’s business practices deserve close scrutiny. Consumers are depending on enforcers and policymakers like you to ensure that Google abides by existing antitrust laws. I urge you to act now to protect fair search so that competition and innovation can thrive.
The FiarSearch.org site has a blog, but does not name authors of the posts.
In September, 2011, FairSearch.org sponsored a study titled “Findings From A Survey Of Americans About Antitrust Investigation Of Google In The U.S.” that found that a "majority of Americans are troubled by Google’s dominance of the online marketplace." FairSearch.org timed the release of the study to coincide with the dates when Congress was scheduled to hold antitrust hearings to examine Google's business activities. The website SearchEngineLand, which obtained the survey tool and analyzed the results, reported that "Unfortunately, the study results are tainted by flawed methodology and a blatant anti-Google bias, implicitly favoring the agendas of the companies that sponsored the research." In an article about the study, Chris Sherman wrote, "Fairsearch.org provided me with a copy of the questions and statements used by interviewers for the survey, and most of them are leading questions or statements that use questionable stats to stimulate the responses FairSearch.org apparently wanted, rather than seeking objective consumer opinions. So yes, it’s fair to say there may have been 'error or bias' introduced into the findings."
Clicking "contact" on FairSearch.org's website opens an email composition screen addressed to "firstname.lastname@example.org." The group provides no fixed address or telephone number.
- Roger Yu Google Travel Site Doesn't Strike Fear Into Competitors ABC News/Travel, September 25, 2011
- FairSearch.org Take Action, organizational website, accessed September 26, 2011
- George Dooley, Travel Agent Central Google's Market Power Probed by Senate, article/blog, September 21, 2011
- Chris Sherman Do The Majority Of Americans Think Google Is Unfair?, blog, September 21, 2011