Robert Bork defends Google against antitrust criticism


Bork served as solicitor general in the 1970s and was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, but the Senate rejected his nomination over concerns about his conservative views.

He currently serves as a legal adviser to Google and to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

In Friday's op-ed, Bork claimed that "no agency or critic has articulated a coherent theory of how Google harms consumers."

FTC officials, including Chairman Jon Leibowitz, have said they believe their agency has the authority to bring a "pure Section 5" case against a company. In such a case, the FTC would only have to show that a company engaged in "unfair methods of competition" and not that the behavior harms consumers.

Observers have speculated that Google would serve as a good case to test the limits of the FTC's Section 5 powers.

A sweeping antitrust case against Google could be devastating for the company.

The Justice Department's antitrust suit against Microsoft in the early part of the last decade drained the company of resources and led some of its most talented employees to leave.

But Bork argued that there is nothing "unfair" about Google's search algorithms.

"Google bases its business on developing algorithms that facilitate consumer searches. Its competitors do the same thing. Google is just more effective," Bork said.

Critics argue that Google is a portal to the rest of the Internet and should not boost its own services, such as Google+, YouTube or Google Maps, over those of its competitors.

But Bork noted that "consumers can switch search engines without cost instantaneously." He said that if Google promoted its own inferior products over its competitors, consumers could just switch to another search engine.

"There is no economic basis upon which Google or competing search engines should be required to enhance the position of rivals," Bork wrote.

He also said that the ease with which consumers can switch search engines makes accusations that Google has monopolized search "unsupportable."

Bork said that competition in the search industry is "vigorous" and that government regulators do not need to step in to protect consumers. 

"Competitive discipline is far more effective than any antitrust decree," he wrote.