CNET reports that Google took a $500 million charge in its first quarter in case it must resolve “an investigation by the United States Department of Justice into the use of Google advertising by certain advertisers.”
Both Google and the DoJ have declined further comment.
CNET, however, creates some loose speculation as to the nature of the charge, noting:
There have been a handful of antitrust claims against the company related to advertising. Last year, for example, Columbus, Ohio-based MyTriggers, which runs an online shopping comparison search site, accused Google of manipulating search results to penalize it, a claim Google has denied.
Earlier this year, Overstock was penalized by Google for artificially inflating its search rankings contrary to Google policy. During this period, Google also worked to improve its algorithm, which elicited industry criticism because the act of improving on their proprietary algorithm appeared opaque to many.
As with Microsoft before it, being the market leader attracts attention. Google – its “Search” being colloquially a verb because of its importance to users – brings complainers out of the woodwork.
Where’s there’s smoke there’s fire? Who knows? But, setting aside that much green for the DoJ means something’s on the horizon. Something big.
We’ll keep an eye on this story as events unfold.