Mon 29 Sep 2008
I already wrote about how much Google’s search monopoly worries me. Now there is one more reason to be wary of it – Google is officially, as a company, taking a position in the public debate on a social issue. This is more than unusual.
No matter what we think of the issue at hand I think this is both unusual and very worrying if a corporation takes a stand on a social issue like this. It is even more dangerous if the company in question has a de-facto monopoly on search and strong position in other fields that influence what content gets through to the bulk of Internet users.
It is not to say that I’m sure Google is meddling with its search results or – say – YouTube content. But it is a possibility that is hard to dismiss. If Sergey Brin feels about an issue strongly enough to put the weight of his company behind his private opinion (as opposed to just his name) there will be a strong temptation to extend the “fight” with those holding a different position one step further. And if it happens it will be very hard to fight with. First, it would be very, very difficult to prove. And even if proven it would be fully legal, because being a private corporation Google is under no obligation to provide fair and balanced treatment to Internet content representing all opinions on issues of today.
I think in the long run this is a threat to freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet. For now, though, the only thing I can do is use Microsoft’s Live Search. And think of moving my e-mail off Google’s GMail.