Don't Be Evil

That's the motto of all-powerful, Internet megalith that is Google. In even looking up the stock for Google, it was best to use Google. If I had trouble opening a bottle of Irn Bru or piercing the plastic on a carton of juice, I'd probably use google. They'd inevitably find a solution.

Google Maps, Stock, Mail, Video, Store, Shopping, Earth, Translate, Labs, News, Codes, Catalogues-the blog I'm writing here is powered by Google. Oh, and it's a search engine as well. Apparently.

This is simple market economics-Google is better at providing these services. They provide faster, more efficient services that work and, ergo, people use them. Ergo, more people use them than any other brand doing the same thing.

This level of total dominance is hard to spot in many other, particularly emerging, new tech, markets. Yes, there are massive companies that loom over most industries, but Google has almost total control over a huge swathe of 'public' space.

This Guardian article raised many questions to me. What was a fairly stupid, crude yet innocuous video has sent this writer off on a storm of worry. However, the comments posted by users (oh, the irony with this story!) are far more interesting.

Now, I really dislike a lot of the Guardian. I think their sport is very in depth, I think a large portion of their arts coverage, while London-centric, is very strong and their scope of news is very broad. They are still a bunch of unwashed, whining hippie Liberals that I have little time for. And they really can't edit-spelling helps in a nwsepaepr.

This article brought up a few issues. Google, most certainly, is terrified of treading on any government's toes. They seem to fail to understand that they are the type of organisation that has a chance to end the silly notion of nation states-they naturally undermine the outdated and irrelevant concept of borders. Yet they toe the line on all of the little idiosyncratic, xenophobic bollocks that nations like Turkey (sorry, have I insulted Turkishness?), Thailand (sorry, did I insult your silly little monarchy?) or China (sorry, did I insult your ridiculous political system?) Check out Mr Graeme West's post for more clarity on this issue of borders on the Internet.

Filters and censorship are high on the agenda of the 'democratic' free world states like the UK, US and Australia right now. For obvious reasons, the major industrial states, China, US, Germany et al, consider the Internet to be the most dangerous weapon against them. They're not scared of terrorism or invasion or resource struggles-they're terrified of the ability to disseminate information about these subjects to a wide audience for free. The Internet can undermine governments and expose them for the dangerous, corrupt liars they are. (Just a sec, I think Hazel Blears is at the door. And she's brought friends with guns!)

Google, if it considers itself to be 'not evil', should start standing up for free speech. They should refuse to bite the bullet from these governments even it hurts their business interests. They are bigger than just a company, or at least could be.

But the article at the Guardian exposed another flaw with all this-accuracy and the quality of journalism. Sadly, for journalists, the Internet has exposed that many of them are not only not every good, but that there are better people out there. And they write comments in the blog posts after journalist's columns.

A poster called RogerINtheUSA threw this out there:

Except that the folks at Google, which owns YouTube, didn't see it that way. Within a couple of days, they had taken it down for an unspecified violation of YouTube's terms of use

The Guardian, apparently to make Google seem more arbitrary, does not state the reason the video was taken down.

A few instants spent following the Guardian's link finds this:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Howard Owens, GateHouse Media's director of digital publishing, has responded to YouTube's decision to remove the Beverly Citizen's controversial video of the "Horribles" parade.

According to Owens, YouTube acted after receiving a complaint from someone whose face was visible in the video. Apparently YouTube has a privacy policy under which it will take down a video at literally anyone's request.

further checking finds

Statement from Howard Owens, Director of Digital Publishing, Gatehouse Media:

GateHouse Media has been using YouTube as its primary video hosting provider for several months and weve been in the process of finalizing a partnership deal with YouTube that would give us more technical features, better branding and a revenue share on advertising sold.

When we discovered that the Horribles video had been removed from YouTube, I immediately e-mailed our key contact at YouTube and asked him to investigate the issue.

His response was that the video had been removed over a privacy complaint.

In my reply, I questioned the assertion of privacy. The parade was a public event. There is no privacy issue.

In the follow up e-mail, we also learned that there was alleged death threat against a woman in the video.

So there you go. He's a better journalist than Dan Kennedy, because he did what journalists are supposed to do-check facts. The level of accuracy on the Internet is a major issue; it's all very well us all pushing for total freedom to say or show anything on the net but if people are going to be libelous, liars or just downright lazy, then there's no point because it completely invalidates the point of the Internet.

What will it take to make Google wake up to all of this? Probably the threat of curbing their business-regulation. What will make the Internet much more useful, in terms of accuracy and value? Vigilance.

More lighthearted stuff to come...



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