Google, in the midst of a historic antitrust trial in DC, buried direct links to Rumble, the exclusive distributor of the first RNC debate, in its search engine. In an even bigger antitrust fumble, it placed links to its own video platform, YouTube, ahead of Rumble’s.
Google was well aware that Rumble had exclusive rights to broadcast the Republican presidential debate last month. In internal emails obtained by the Intercept, Google even reached out to the RNC ahead of time, asking about their online live stream plans to “share with the product team.”
Google did ask the RNC to provide a link to Rumble’s debate stream, and on August 14 informed the RNC and Rumble that it needed a link that very day in order to feature the stream at the top of its results.
Generating a link to a livestream nine days in advance is a complicated process, and a Rumble employee requested a call with Google’s representative to clarify what the tech giant needed. Google’s representative did not respond, despite Rumble bumping the email.
The RNC promptly responded, telling Google that the debate would be streamed on Fox News for cable watchers, on Fox Nation for paying subscribers, and on Rumble for the general public, for free.
On the day of the debate, Rumble was nowhere to be found on the first page of Google search results for “GOP debate stream.”
Google owns YouTube, by far and away the dominant platform in online video hosting, and therefore Rumble’s top competitor. Rumble is currently suing Google in California over alleged antitrust violations, arguing that the tech giant is suppressing results for Rumble and other competitors in its search results. The fact that Google failed to display a link to a Rumble-exclusive presidential livestream is unlikely to help the tech giant’s case.
Google, however, insists it was all just a misunderstanding.
“The facts here are very mundane,” a Google representative told the Intercept. “People could easily find information about where to watch the debate in Google Search results. And as part of our ongoing effort to build dedicated features in Search to more prominently showcase events like debates, we reached out to the RNC and Rumble, but unfortunately it didn’t come together in time to test and create the livestream feature. We’ve already worked with the RNC and Rumble to get this feature set up for the next debate, as we would do with any livestream provider.”