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Google held off on strong enforcement against ‘misleading’ browser extensions due to antitrust concerns: Report

Google was provided information that Chrome extensions by InterActiveCorp (IAC) were misleading customers, but did not act strongly on that information due to antitrust concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported. IAC owns the search engines Ask.com and MyWay, which at least one extension would set as the default on users’ browsers (which was likely one of the antitrust elements that Google was cautious about moving strongly against). IAC also operates other large sites like Investopedia.

According to the WSJ report, Google has still not decided whether to impose penalties on IAC, which pays the search giant millions of dollars to feature its extensions on the Chrome Web Store. The Alphabet-owned company’s Trust and Safety team reportedly recommended that the errant extensions be taken off the Chrome Web Store immediately, a recommendation that Google has reportedly only partially followed. The Trust and Safety team reportedly accused IAC extensions of making users see more ads and relying on them unwittingly installing its extensions.

IAC was at one point reportedly Google’s largest advertiser, and to this day spends millions of dollars on search ads for its websites, and earns in the scale of millions as well. The matter is delicate for Google for yet another reason: it is currently defending itself from what is possibly its most significant legal challenge yet, with the US Department of Justice suing the company over its dominance in the online search market. IAC, which a Google audit reportedly said misled users into getting extensions that falsely said they would help them vote, among other things, accused the search company of “seeking to quash” its browser-related business in a statement to the Journal.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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