When is Market Power Not Market Power?

… When it’s online!

Google is the dominant search engine. Everybody knows that. As such, it’s an important bottleneck. If you can’t get your stuff out on Google, you’ll have a hard time getting your stuff out. Right?

Rumors are swirling that Google News has declined to treat certain news sources as news sources because of allegedly “hateful” content. Are sites critical of Islam being “disappeared” from Google News? If it’s true, that’s a bad thing. I don’t agree with hatred of Islam, but I want the fullest airing of people’s views on those issues.

So, if it’s true, something should be done. But what? Sue? Seek public-utility-style regulation for search, as is being done with broadband?

Or maybe what needs to be done is already being done.

I just said that rumors are swirling. How much of a bottleneck can Google be when its alleged censoriousness is broadcast by popular blogger Instapundit? This has probably already given more ‘ink’ to these marginal sites than being ranked on Google would.

Take a look again at the NewsBusters site I linked to above where I said “Rumors are swirling”. The discussion includes lots of people swearing off Google, arguing about Google’s search algorithms, comparing Google searches to Yahoo! searches, and yapping about other, dumber stuff.

In other words, based on the rumor that Google is treating certain sites badly, the people that disagree with that are talking about it, changing their search habits, and encouraging others to do so. In precise proportion to the importance of this issue to people in society, Google is losing business. This is what we call a self-correcting market. Google’s market power is feeble. Consumers are in the driver’s seat.

(N.B. Haters of Islam are but a small part of the overall market. If Google chooses not to make those sites available and the majority of consumers accept that, that is by definition what serves the greatest number in the best way. Opponents of that freedom should be clear that they want consumers not to get what they want. They want to force disagreeable speech on an unwelcoming public using government power. Now that would be a bad thing.)

 (Cross-posted from TechLiberationFront)