UK-based Foundem – a rival search engine site to Google – has criticised the market leader’s spam filtering procedures of being a front for displaying anti-competitive behaviour towards both itself and other search engine sites.

Foundem claims that Google’s current criteria for assessing whether websites are spam – and therefore less deserving of a prominent place on its results pages – do not stand up to objective scrutiny.

At the moment, says Foundem, Google justifies the relegation of a website on the basis of the latter’s over-use of content from other sources, and also on its over-emphasis on directing users onto other sites.

Foundem claims these criteria in themselves are insufficient to identify spam. Particularly, it says, since many legitimate search engine sites which concentrate on researching a particular topic – so-called ‘vertical’ search engines – often by default rely on such practices of copying and site referral.

It claims that Google’s lack of a more rigorous method for identifying spam sites is giving the organisation licence to deliberately undermine the validity of smaller search engines. A spokesperson for Foundem said:

“Google’s stated justifications for penalising many of its vertical search competitors are not legitimate, they are merely a pretext to disguise anti-competitive abuse.

“These characteristics […] cannot on their own be used to justify the systematic demotion of Google’s competitors.”

Foundem’s comments form the basis of a formal submission to the European Commission – and follow on from the Commission’s demand back in May that Google looks at ways of altering its search activities so as not to unfairly exploit its position as market leader.