Technology

Google sends anti-regulatory propaganda to small businesses through Google Maps

google-sends-anti-regulatory-propaganda-to-small-businesses-through-google-maps

Enlarge / Let’s see you landed on my Google Ads space, and with three houses … that’s going to be $ 1,400.

Ron Amadeo / Hasbro

Google is silently enlisting the help of small businesses to protect the nearly $ 2 trillion company from antitrust regulations. In response to Congressional laws like the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, which would prohibit platform owners from preferring their own services over the competition, Google is advising small business owners that these bills would affect their ability to find customers online and that they should contact each other should be their congressman on the matter.

We’ve seen Google take political action, usually in the form of headline-grabbing blog posts from CEO Sundar Pichai, defending the latest product bundling scheme. The strategy here seems to be new, however; Instead of writing a public blog post, Google tacitly targets users who have registered business listings on Google Maps. These users report receiving unsolicited emails and an “Action Point” in the Google Business Profile UI, both of which point to Google’s new antitrust website.

Both the email and the action item from Google Business ask for a click: “New laws can affect businesses. Legislative proposals could make it harder to find your business online.” Both articles point to this website which is full of scary language begging users to “keep abreast of legislative proposals that could affect your business”. The website encourages concerned users to sign up for Google’s new political action mailing list for companies. “

A screenshot of the Google website asking users to sign up for their political mailing list.

A screenshot of the Google website asking users to sign up for their political mailing list.

Ron Amadeo

The site never mentions bills like the Ending Platform Monopolises Act by name, and so the arguments can be quite difficult for ordinary people to understand. The site speaks of nondescript “laws” that harm businesses and repeatedly refers to “these bills” without ever specifying which laws are being referred to. Only after you’ve clicked through a few “More Information” links below will you finally discover the subject of the page by reading the linked press releases, which cover the specific legislative proposals for search engines, ad platforms and app stores.

advertising

After offering the usual platitudes about the importance of small businesses during the pandemic, the Google website portrays its resistance to antitrust law as a grassroots movement, saying, “Some of you have also raised concerns about proposed regulations in Congress that have unintended consequences for You would have business and could disrupt many of the digital tools you rely on on a daily basis. “

Google lists a few bullet points that explain how it would hurt small businesses to compete in each market individually:

When these bills pass, they can cost your business time and money by:

  • Make it harder for your customers to find you because your business listing (including your phone number, address, and business hours) may no longer appear in Google Search and Maps.
  • Make your digital marketing less effective when Google Ads products are separate from each other and from Google Analytics.
  • Affect your productivity when Gmail, Docs, and Calendar get split up and no longer work seamlessly together.

Google claims that promoting its own services over the competition is the only way to get rich search results.

Google claims that promoting its own services over the competition is the only way to get rich search results.

Google

The website also includes the above image, which claims that restricting Google Search’s ability to promote Google products over the competition would destroy rich search results completely. The screenshot “before” and “after” shows the usual rich search result (powered by Google Maps) with larger text, information on customer ratings, opening times, a photo and links to phone calls, directions and more. Using the “after” example, Google claims that blocking the company from artificially placing Google Maps above the competition would mean no rich search results at all and a return to the standard “10 blue links” interface from 1998. Google says customers have a harder time finding local businesses this way.

That’s a strange argument. Google fails to elaborate on why Google Maps and rich search results are so closely related, and why it cannot simply display rich search results from another local information provider, such as Top Score. Google has a complete “structured data format” specifically designed to enable websites to provide large search results, and Google Search regularly displays customer reviews and pricing information from sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Tripadvisor. The only difference is that the information is not formatted as prominently as it is in Google Maps and is not pinned to the top of the page. Figuring out how to feed third-party map data to Google Search doesn’t seem like an impossible task, especially when Google’s mission statement as a company is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

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