Professor of Law, University of Michigan. Email: email@example.com. I am grateful to various individuals at both Google and Microsoft for discussing these issues with me. All views expressed are solely my own. Elizabeth Cuneo provided excellent research assistance.
Dominant Internet search engines such as Google have been accused of favoring their proprietary content and services in organic search rankings. Some commentators have proposed a “search neutrality” principle that would prohibit such favoritism and require search engines to rank results using neutral or objective criteria. Such criticisms are vulnerable to at least two important shortcomings. First, the relationship between search dominance and referral dominance is weak at best. A showing that dominant search engines distort competition in adjacent sites and services through self-referral has not been made. Second, requiring a “neutral” approach to search ranking would freeze search engines into an outdated “ten-blue-links” model and stymie search engine innovation.