Search engine optimization

Google is coming under fire for search engine optimization practices among other things.

Fruit basket gift business Edible Arrangements has joined a long list of disgruntled companies claiming Google games the search engine optimization system to favor competitors.

The franchiser has filed a federal lawsuit against Google, the Hartford Courant reports. Edible Arrangements claims Google showed, “calculated, deceitful and unfair conduct,” and is seeking $209 million in damages and lost profit.

Edible Arrangements says Google causes confusion about its product by mixing competitors’ ads with the company’s search results.

“Any consumer misperception or confusion as to the affiliation of Edible Arrangements or its products with competitors or their products will irreparably damage Edible Arrangements’ valuable brand and goodwill as well as that of Edible Arrangements’ franchisees who devote significant personal resources to running their shops,” Edible Arrangements said in the lawsuit.

Edible Arrangements is hardly the first company to complain about Google and search engine optimization. The New York Times Magazine recently published a long article about Google’s competitive behavior and asking whether the government should step in.

That article concludes:

Antitrust prosecutions are part of how technology grows. Antitrust laws ultimately aren’t about justice, as if success were something to be condemned; instead, they are a tool that society uses to help start-ups build on a monopolist’s breakthroughs without, in the process, being crushed by the monopolist. And then, if those start-ups prosper and make discoveries of their own, they eventually become monopolies themselves, and the cycle starts anew. If Microsoft had crushed Google two decades ago, no one would have noticed. Today we would happily be using Bing, unaware that a better alternative once existed. Instead, we’re lucky a quixotic antitrust lawsuit helped to stop that from happening. We’re lucky that antitrust lawyers unintentionally guaranteed that Google would thrive.

Put differently, if you love technology — if you always buy the latest gadgets and think scientific advances are powerful forces for good — then perhaps you ought to cheer on the antitrust prosecutors. Because there is no better method for keeping the marketplace constructive and creative than a legal system that intervenes whenever a company, no matter how beloved, grows so large as to blot out the sun. If you love Google, you should hope the government sues it for antitrust offenses — and you should hope it happens soon, because who knows what wondrous new creations are waiting patiently in the wings.