When a company picks a slogan, you can make book on when it will become irrelevant or even a joke. A case in point is “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” which has morphed into “Just the News That Democrats Want You to See.”
At Google, which likes to gather information on Web users, “Don’t Be Evil” has been difficult to live up to. From Robert Epstein’s lengthy opinion piece at U.S. News and World Report:
“[Google] maintains at least nine different blacklists that impact our lives, generally without input or authority from any outside advisory group, industry association or government agency. Google is not the only company suppressing content on the Internet. Reddit has frequently been accused of banning postings on specific topics, and a recent report suggests that Facebook has been deleting conservative news stories from its newsfeed, a practice that might have significant effect on public opinion – even on voting. Google, though, is currently the biggest bully on the block.
“When Google’s employees or algorithms decide to block our access to information about a news item, political candidate or business, opinions and votes can shift, reputations can be ruined, and businesses can crash and burn. Because online censorship is entirely unregulated at the moment, victims have little or no recourse when they have been harmed. Eventually, authorities will almost certainly have to step in, just as they did when credit bureaus were regulated in 1970. The alternative would be to allow a large corporation to wield an especially destructive kind of power that should be exercises with great restraint and should belong only to the public: the power to shame or exclude.”
Mr. Epstein is senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California. He makes his case well, although his idea of more governmental intervention in the tech sector won’t be popular outside of the born censors of the loony left. Here is his reasoning:
“If Google were just another mom-and-pop shop with a sign saying ‘we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,’ that would be one thing. But as the golden gateway to all knowledge, Google has rapidly become an essential in people’s lives – nearly as essential as air or water. We don’t let public utilities make arbitrary and secretive decisions about denying people services; we shouldn’t let Google do so either.”
The article goes on to point out ways large and small that Google puts its thumb on the scales, starting with the autocomplete function and suspicious blacked-out areas in its Maps function, all the way through shenanigans with AdWords and the basic search engine itself. At the end of the article Mr. Epstein explains the inner workings of Google’s quarantine list. Search for a site on that blacklist and you get a scary warning saying it might be infected with malware.
Sometimes mistakes are made, but here’s the key: All the major browsers – not just Google’s Chrome – run queries past the Google quarantine list, the industry standard. That means, according to Mr. Epstein, that Google is regularly collecting information on more than 2.5 billion people. His parting shot:
“How frequently Google acts irresponsibly is beside the point; it has the ABILITY to do so, which means that in a matter of seconds any of Google’s 37,000 employees with the right passwords or skills could laser a business or political candidate into oblivion or even freeze much of the world’s economy.”
Overstated? We report, you decide, to quote another discredited slogan. Here’s the story: http://tinyurl.com/hncvqh5