Microsoft Testifies at House Hearing, Google Lashes Out

Image credit: Wikipedia

When Microsoft’s Brad Smith testified against Google at a House subcommittee hearing, the online giant lashed out in a way that can only be described as unhinged.

“While Google and Facebook have gained the most revenue from the shift to digital advertising, Google in multiple ways is unique,” Microsoft president Brad Smith’s written testimony to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law reads. “Google has been the biggest winner, capturing about a third of all digital advertising revenue in U.S. in the last year. Indeed, since its founding just over twenty years ago, Google has grown its global ad revenue to approximately $147 billion.”

Mr. Smith used the word “Google” 75 times in his written testimony, which was directed at an investigation into the negative impact on online advertising on journalism and our democracy. He noted that Google plays “multiple roles” in our online lives thanks to its dominance, and that Google has subverted journalism by stealing content that it thinks of as “food that feeds its search and advertising network” from those that create that content.

“Google has effectively transformed itself into the ‘front page’ for news, owning the reader relationship and relegating news content on their properties to a commodity input,” he testified. “The advertising revenue of the nation’s newspapers fell from $49.4 billion in 2005 to $14.3 billion in 2018. During this same time, Google’s advertising revenue rose from $6.1 billion to $116 billion. This is not a coincidence.”

Smith pointed at the success of Australia in getting Google to finally pay for the content it has, to date, stolen, and said that it was “proving effective” and could be used as a model for similar regulations around the globe. “We’re sensitive to the argument that we must avoid enacting a law that would ‘break the Internet’,” Smith added. “We would not have endorsed the Australian law if we believed there was any real merit to Google’s argument that the country’s legislation would have done that.”

Google’s reaction to this testimony is rather interesting, and it reminds me very much of Amazon’s unhinged reaction to Microsoft’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract award almost a year ago. That is, maybe it should have sat on this one for a day and thought it over.

“This important debate should be about the substance of the issue, and not derailed by naked corporate opportunism, which brings us to Microsoft’s sudden interest in this discussion,” Google’s Kent Walker rants in an op-ed in the Google Keyword blog. “We respect Microsoft’s success and we compete hard with them in cloud computing, search, productivity apps, video conferencing, email[,] and many other areas. Unfortunately, as competition in these areas intensifies, they are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests. They are now making self-serving claims and are even willing to break the way the open web works in an effort to undercut a rival. And their claims about our business and how we work with news publishers are just plain wrong.”

Mr. Walker’s assertions that Microsoft taking a stand against it are “naked corporate opportunism” and “self-serving” are inflammatory, but they’re also hilarious. Of course, Microsoft is looking for a self-serving opportunity. It’s a corporation. That’s what corporations do.

But where Walker really loses the script is with the following bit in which he claims that Microsoft is only going down this path to draw attention away from the SolarWinds attacks. Yes, really.

“It’s no coincidence that Microsoft’s newfound interest in attacking us comes on the heels of the SolarWinds attack and at a moment when they’ve allowed tens of thousands of their customers — including government agencies in the U.S., NATO allies, banks, nonprofits, telecommunications providers, public utilities, police, fire and rescue units, hospitals and, presumably, news organizations — to be actively hacked via major Microsoft vulnerabilities,” Walker claims. “Microsoft was warned about the vulnerabilities in their system, knew they were being exploited, and are now doing damage control while their customers scramble to pick up the pieces from what has been dubbed the Great Email Robbery. So maybe it’s not surprising to see them dusting off the old diversionary Scroogled playbook.”

Actually, it is coincidental. That Google is being questioned about its destruction of journalism and being asked and perhaps forced to pay for news content that it had been stealing in the same rough time period as whatever Microsoft events is, of course, not of Microsoft’s doing. It literally is a coincidence.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, Microsoft can make these complaints because it, unlike Google, does not rely on advertising for a huge chunk (~80 percent) of its revenues. That’s doesn’t make Microsoft a “better” company than Google—a lot more goes into that—but it does mean that Microsoft is uniquely positioned to take this stance. And that it should want to take down one of a handful of major gatekeepers in Big Tech is, of course, likewise understandable. Per the earlier point, corporations compete with each other.


Tagged with

Share post

Conversation 41 comments

  • j5

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2021 - 1:30 pm

    <p>That is pretty hilarious and crazy. You'd expect the CEOs and Execs of these major corporations to be able to handle accusations or even open and straight attacks better; especially in a public forum like a government hearing.</p><p>Neither one is better than the other. But everyone knows, tech and normies, that Google dominates the ad space and knows you can get the news via or just "google" news and come up with <em>free</em> results.</p>

  • scovious

    12 March, 2021 - 1:31 pm

    <p>"We respect Microsoft’s success and we compete hard with them in cloud computing, search, productivity apps, video conferencing, email," [and operating systems, all of which we could never succeed at without offering everything for free, subsidized by advertising or ripped and stolen content on the web.] </p><p><br></p><p>I would love to see a version of Google that doesn't get to rely on its seemingly bottomless supply of ad revenue.</p>

    • Username

      12 March, 2021 - 4:53 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#617830"><em>In reply to scovious:</em></a><em> </em>I would love to see a version of Google that doesn't get to rely on its seemingly bottomless supply of ad revenue.</blockquote><p><br></p><p>Microsoft tried advertising and failed – for a time they even bribed Bing users. Google won that war, why go backwards? Would Microsoft’s Chromium Edge even exist if it wasn’t for Google ad revenue?</p>

    • winner

      13 March, 2021 - 2:38 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617830">In reply to scovious:</a></em></blockquote><p>You might not like it, but advertising is not illegal. I hope you don't use Google's services and think you should get them for free with the company having no way to create an income.</p>

      • mikegalos

        13 March, 2021 - 10:36 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617888">In reply to Winner:</a></em></blockquote><p>You are correct that advertising (I assume you mean selling advertising) is not illegal BUT selling products below cost to affect the viability of competitors in a market is dumping and while dumping itself is also not illegal it IS abuse of monopoly power if you do it in a market where you have monopoly power. </p>

        • winner

          13 March, 2021 - 2:33 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#617940">In reply to MikeGalos:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed. The question is whether Google is linking to existing articles, or scraping and duplicating the news? That's a legitimate question.</p>

          • Paul Thurrott

            Premium Member
            14 March, 2021 - 9:36 am

            It’s not a question. They are/were scraping, not just linking.

            • George Rae

              14 March, 2021 - 12:45 pm

              <blockquote><em><a href="#618019">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><blockquote><em>it is amusing to watch Google users become “Woke”. They have been the Walmart of the internet for quite sometime. destroying businesses is the model.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

            • ianhead

              14 March, 2021 - 7:02 pm

              <blockquote><em><a href="#618019">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'm glad that you pointed out the distinction there, but the strange thing for me is that I've never seen any scraping actually happening in Google's news pages here in Australia. Even when I look right now, there are only headlines, which take you directly to the source's site when clicked, and that's the way I've always understood it to be. No content from the articles is being relayed. </p><p><br></p><p>That's one reason I actually think the Australian government is wrong to do what they have done, and I think the precedent being set is bad for the internet. I'm no fan of Google or Facebook, but the legislation doesn't even make a distinction between linking to articles or copying text from them wholesale. The verb they use is 'include', which could easily mean either thing.</p><p><br></p><p>If Google is actually scraping content and displaying it on their own site anywhere, can't news vendors go after them under the DMCA for that?</p>

          • Greg Green

            14 March, 2021 - 1:01 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#617968">In reply to Winner:</a></em></blockquote><p>My experience as a non subscriber was about half of the headline links led to the actual publication, the other half led to a google page of the story. The google pages also included an option in the upper left to go to the originator’s page.</p>

      • samp

        13 March, 2021 - 5:12 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617888">In reply to Winner:</a></em></blockquote><p>Obsessive private data collection should (if its not) be illegal. I am a google fan (or maybe the google fan), but i do find its creepy tracking wrong. I don't use chromebook or Pixel for that reason (and the same with Facebook).</p>

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2021 - 1:41 pm

    <p>I'm not at all a fan of Google, Facebook, or advertising, but I find it gross that Microsoft has sided with Rupert Murdoch in squeezing these companies purely for his own benefit. If Australia or any other country wants to find a way to fund journalism and local news, then come up with a clear taxing policy that does so and vote on it. Don't be a party to this bizarro idea that the value of news on Google and Facebook flows primarily from content creators to the platforms; it does not. It flows the other way. Google and Facebook would be just fine without Australian news sites, thank you very much. Those news sites, however, would suffer significantly if Google and Facebook stop sending traffic to them. I get that Microsoft sees an opportunity here to turn the screws on two big competitors, but to me at least, this undoes some of the goodwill they've built up over the last few years under Nadella. </p>

    • anoldamigauser

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2021 - 5:48 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617831">In reply to Chris_Kez:</a></em></blockquote><p>Politics makes for strange bedfellows.</p><p>While I am sure that Microsoft is telling itself that it is helping all journalism outlets, in Australia, the Murdoch empire will benefit the most.</p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        13 March, 2021 - 9:16 am


        Microsoft is not telling itself anything, it’s a company. Microsoft is competing with a company that silently tracks all of its users, steals content from content creators, and then makes billions of dollars off of those activities. What it’s doing is telling regulators what Google is doing, and how that behavior has resulted in the current situation. Which is dire.

  • yaddamaster

    12 March, 2021 - 1:53 pm

    <p>"Do no evil" has been replaced by "Do evil at every opportunity"</p>

    • mikegalos

      13 March, 2021 - 10:28 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617832">In reply to yaddamaster:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's always been, "Do no evil (that doesn't make a hefty profit)".</p>

    • samp

      13 March, 2021 - 5:07 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617832">In reply to yaddamaster:</a></em></blockquote><p>Compared to the evil that they could unleash at any moment, they are being relatively tame.</p>

  • LT1 Z51

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2021 - 1:53 pm

    <p>The Ad Mob needs to be broken up. Giving stuff away for free to subversively "monitize" something in some other way should be illegal. I appreciate Google for Search, Maps, and Gmail and I would continue to use those services even if they were no longer Google. Same with Amazon and it's website. But the ecosystem and ad based services parts of the company can be put in a dumpster. The US broke up ATT in 1984, I don't see how Facebook, Google, Amazon, and even (to a lesser extent) Apple haven't be threatened seriously (until very recently) the way even Microsoft was in the late 1990's. I'd rather have the oligopoly of cablephonewireless companies (where 6-8 companies compete for my dollars) versus the various monoduotri-polies we have in Search (Google, and…?), E-mail (GoogleMicrosoft), Ads (GoogleFacebook), Social Media (FacebookTwitter), Web hostingdata analytics (AWS, and…?) and Phone OS (GoogleApple). </p>

    • Chris_Kez

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2021 - 1:57 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617833">In reply to LT1 Z51:</a></em></blockquote><p>I would gladly pay for Search and Maps.</p>

  • cavalier_eternal

    12 March, 2021 - 3:16 pm

    <p>So “self-serving” is fine because that is what corporations do then how is using the word to describe Microsoft inflammatory? Maybe pick a lane on that one. </p><p><br></p><p>I read the full Google blog post and while a disagree with large chunks of it, there was nothing unhinged or rant like about it. Compared to Microsoft’s Scroogled stunt, which was childish if we are being generous, Google looks like a bunch of mild mannered adults. </p><p><br></p><p>And because the go to defense is to accuse commenters of being biased and having an agenda when they disagree. I don’t use any Google products, I won’t use Google products and I would recommend against using Google products. When it comes to Microsoft, I use Microsoft products and I recommend them. So, no, I’m not pushing some sort of bias or agenda, I’m simply giving an honest assessment of the Google’s response. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2021 - 9:32 am

      Speaking of bias and agenda…

  • b6gd

    12 March, 2021 - 3:54 pm

    <p>I am almost, kind of sorta, was on Google's side until they went off on a tangent with the SolarWinds stuff? Those are completely different issues.</p><p><br></p><p>I was not a fan of Google before and now I am less. </p><p><br></p><p>Then again I spent most of today troubleshooting some Dymo Label printing issue that I got dragged into and it turns out that the March Windows 10 update has broken over 100 Dymo Label printers used at our company. I am becoming less of a fan of Windows every day.</p>

    • ebraiter

      12 March, 2021 - 4:12 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617853">In reply to b6gd:</a></em></blockquote><p>Next time turn off Windows updating for a week or so. However the number of people affected by the printing issue is very limited. That would be like WordPerfect people complaining that they can't open the application.</p>

      • Username

        12 March, 2021 - 4:46 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#617856"><em>In reply to ebraiter:</em></a><em> </em>Next time turn off Windows updating for a week or so.&nbsp;</blockquote><p><br></p><p>that won’t improve your security stance – main imperative for the updates.</p>

      • b6gd

        12 March, 2021 - 8:27 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617856">In reply to ebraiter:</a></em></blockquote><p>I am not part of the desktop group. I was dragged in from the network team because the printers are on the network. </p><p><br></p><p>It is my understanding after talking to our MS TAM it’s impacting lots of printers. I bet there is a fix by next week.</p>

  • ebraiter

    12 March, 2021 - 4:14 pm

    <p>While I am more of a Microsoft fan than Google, it isn't by much. Both are not my favorites. Google is definitely worse because of their history of fishiness. With Microsoft I disliked their telemetry crap.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2021 - 9:22 am

      The delta between Google’s tracking, ads, and content theft and Microsoft’s “telemetry crap” makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk. Google is worse because of the sheer number of people it impacts every single day and because of the businesses it has destroyed. It’s not even close.

  • donaldhall3

    12 March, 2021 - 4:21 pm

    <p>I worked at Microsoft for 13 years and Google for 3 and both companies are guilty of being awful. This delay and distract tactic was a favorite of Bill and Steve’s. Of course Google is going to do all it can to protect its revenue stream. As Paul would say “that’s what companies do”.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2021 - 9:21 am

      A Microsoft employee/friend once described a brush up between Dell and Microsoft and then ended it with “these two companies deserve each other.”

  • ggolcher

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2021 - 4:47 pm

    <p>Whataboutism at its best</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2021 - 9:16 am

      More like whathappenedism and now letsfixitism.

  • winner

    13 March, 2021 - 2:33 am

    <p>So do I understand that Microsoft does not like a company that dominates its market?</p><p>Interesting.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2021 - 9:09 am

      What does that even mean? “Microsoft” is not a person with “likes.”

      If this is some reference to the late 1990s, please. It’s time to move on.

    • spiderman2

      13 March, 2021 - 10:00 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617887">In reply to Winner:</a></em></blockquote><p>So do I understand that google does not like a competitor in its market?</p><p>Interesting</p>

      • samp

        13 March, 2021 - 5:04 pm

        <p>So I understand Facebook doesn't like costs in its market? </p><p><br></p><p>Interesting</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    13 March, 2021 - 6:00 am

    <blockquote><em><a href="#617871">In reply to SvenJ:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'd pay for maps on a per use basis. I probably use it once or twice a year. If certainly not subscribe to it. </p><p>Pay for search? Yes, but not Google. </p>

  • jwpear

    Premium Member
    13 March, 2021 - 7:23 am

    <p>Journalism has become such a sad state. If forcing companies like Google to pay for content meant we'd see higher quality journalism, I'm on board. And maybe this would foster a more competitive search market. I'm a little skeptical, but willing to see where this goes. </p>

  • spiderman2

    13 March, 2021 - 9:58 am

    <p>Australia: Hey, Google &amp; Facebook, you have to pay us</p><p>Facebook: F**k you</p><p>Google: Sure thing Thumbs up, but let’s all agree that IT IS MICROSOFTS FAULT!&nbsp;</p>

  • codymesh

    13 March, 2021 - 10:02 am

    <p>Big Tech more like Big Babies</p>

  • Greg Green

    14 March, 2021 - 12:55 pm

    <p>Nice. Sometimes MS plays politics well.</p>

  • ghostrider

    15 March, 2021 - 12:33 pm

    <p>There all as bad as one another, but let's be clear, despite a more balanced tone, Microsoft's testimony was just as scathing and undermining, just with less 'rant'. MS have been under the cosh many times in their history – some of their tactics have been utterly appalling and have resulted in competitors being destroyed through nefarious means. MS are in no position to wear their holier-than-though; underdog 'poor me' hat <em>yet again</em>. Google are not cleaner than clean, but neither are MS, so they should both shut up and act like grown-ups. MS are obviously just trying to capitalize on this and stick the knife in.</p>


Stay up to date with the latest tech news from!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thurrott © 2023 BWW Media Group