|GOOGLE: CREEPY, NOT "COOL"
"Google it" currently means to search for something using Google Search. But soon I think it will mean to give a deceptive or misleading answer to a question, preferably one making you money. Currently Google still has the "cool factor" with the unknowing public, especially the young and naive, but it is wearing thin. Consider the behavior of "American Hero" Google.
GOOGLE THE DESTROYER
While purporting to “do no evil,” Google has destroyed much of the news business in the United States and elsewhere around the world. It has caused large news organizations to shrink to a fraction of their former size, while it has outright destroyed others.
"Well," you hear people say, "those businesses need to adapt to the new digital landscape."
With an online presence, virtually all have. But that has not bought them much success, because Google controls, via its search monopoly, whether they are seen or not seen. And if they want to be seen, they must pay the Google via its AdWords program. Or they can be seen for free on Google's news site, where their content is in effect stolen. Any way you look at it, it's a bad deal for anyone other than Google.
A few news organizations have survived in admirable shape, but even those have had to make severe adjustments. The bottom line is ad revenues, and what once went to those who did the work now flows to Mr. Google, who still claims to "do no evil." To make such a claim, however, you would have to redefine evil as good and good as evil.
WHO IS THIS GUY?
There is a lot of confusion about Google and what it is. Google would have you think it is just about anything "cool" under the sun. Is it Google Glass? Sure. Is it self-driving cars? Why not? Is it the future of space exploration, soon to replace Elon Musk and SpaceX? Anything is possible, dude! But the real answer to all these questions is emphatically no. All of those things are just attention getters of a spoiled brat.
Follow the money, however, and you will quickly discover the real Google. With almost all its money coming from advertising, it is something far less glamorous: an advertising broker. But it is not any advertising broker. It is one that charges exorbitant fees: 32 percent according to Google. While 5 to 10 percent might be reasonable, 32 percent is not. It is unconscionable. But not so for the darling of "innovation," Google.
But probably the most insidious behavior of Google is its recent shift to a new business model. While Google used to have a way for publishers to make small change through its AdSense program, it has shifted to a new model. Let me explain:
Under the old scenario, a publisher could host Google ads on its pages by inserting AdSense code into those pages. Then, when Google presented the web address (URL) of that publisher as a search result AND a user clicked on it AND the user clicked on the ad, the following took place: The advertiser paid Google according to a price set via keyword bidding, and Google kept 32 percent and paid the publisher the balance. However, only about 2 or 3 of 1000 users would click on the ad, surveys show, because most users don't click on ads; they are smarter than that.
THE NEW SCENARIO
Now get this: Under the new scenario, Google simply returns the ad, unmarked, as a search result, fooling the user into thinking it is a bone fide search result.
Two more facts: When a user clicks on such an ad, all the money goes to Google. For a restaurant ad, that might be 5 to 7 dollars per click (rates varies according to business type and keyword bidding). But when a user clicks an ad on a real publisher's page, which rarely happens, Google gets only 32 percent of the take. If you comprehend this, the economics are vastly different. Thus it is much in Google's favor to get rid of real publishers.
Note that the FTC requires all paid ads to be labeled as such, but Champ Google thumbs its nose at Chump FTC.
But calling Google on such shenanigans is a formidable task.
Take Google to court and impersonator Google grabs a different hat depending on the situation it faces. It makes Playboy magazine's "situation ethics" look like a solid moral philosophy.
When it steals news content and the issue of content liability crops up, Google claims it is simply an "aggregator": it is just a search engine doing what search engines do. But if it is challenged on antitrust grounds for abusive behavior, it bills itself as a publisher, claiming First Amendment rights to "editorial judgment." Then it claims to be no different from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle ... Biased search results are then none of your business.
And when it comes to invoking the Communication Decency Act, guess what? Google has morphed into an "Internet Service Provider," allowing it to disappear whomever it wants, when it ought to first disappear itself, as it is the world’s largest pornographer.
CoastNews.com, but one of many examples of disappeared websites, was a Google "partner" for almost ten years. We made a small amount of money hosting Google ads. Then two years ago we got a notice from Google stating that CoastNews.com was a pornography website and was banned. We are not a pornography site; we are a culture, travel, and features site also including the San Francisco Restaurant and Dining Guide. And for some years, CoastNews.com had been in the #1, 2, or 3 positions in restaurant searches in San Francisco. That's out of some 5 to 20 million possible search results. Thus we were in a very good position, one you would think would make a lot of money. But not true; paying us pennies on the dollar, Google was pocketing the lion's share.
After being banned, CoastNews.com went from making a little money to none at all. Catastrophic for CoastNews.com but great for the Google.
Suing Google seemed the natural thing to do (S. LOUIS MARTIN V GOOGLE, INC., San Francisco Superior Court). But consider the results so far.
The complaint was filed on 17 June 2014 but has yet to get a real hearing. Google quickly filed an Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion, asserting that we were trying to muzzle its "public participation." It also filed a demurrer response, a "so what" if we did do it? In filing the Anti-SLAPP, Google claimed that we were trying to muzzle the free-speech rights of its search engine's algorithm. Sound silly? While Google had killed CoastNews.com by making it invisible, Google was claiming that our lawsuit was trying to limit its expression of opinion, which included the opinion that CoastNews.com did not deserve to exist.
GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
At the first hearing 13 November 2014, Google was granted its motion without the judge reading the rebuttal to Google's motion and without asking the Plaintiff a single question. Google in fact wrote the judgment and the "judge" simply signed it.
Now you might ask: On what grounds did Google base its Anti-SLAPP? On the far-fetched notion that no one other than Google buys: That it, Google, is a publisher and that it is just exercising its "editorial judgment" when it makes other businesses, including real publishers, disappear. Any careful study of the description of a search engine shows that it does not match the description of a publisher; nor does the description of a publisher match the description of a search engine. You can look at Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster and see that neither mentions that a search engine is a publisher nor that a publisher is a search engine. The idea that Google is a publisher is pure Google “innovation” mindlessly accepted by the court.
The only consolation I find in all this is that it is nothing new. Some 450 years ago Shakespeare nailed it in Hamlet:
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offense's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law; but 'tis not so above.
I am hoping that "above" is the appeals court and that the public starts to see America's hero Google as it really is, not as "cool" but as creepy and even criminal.
Dr. S. Louis Martin