Google’s search for a solution to the problem it is

September 20, 2010

In a comical defense of Google, David Balto of the Center for American Progress pleaded for the Government to not regulate Google in his HuffPo Op-ed: “Regulating Google: Searching for a solution without a problem.” Let me count the ironies here.

First, Mr. Balto is attempting to shield Google behind the successful defense of the broadband industry against mandated net neutrality regulation that “net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem.”

That defense works because it is true. The industry has only one official net neutrality violation that has withstood scrutiny and due process — Madison River in 2005. Since then, the roughly 2,000 broadband networks in the U.S. have abided by the FCC’s 2005 Broadband Principles and remain committed to work constructively to ensure that consumers can neutrally access and use the legal content, applications, and devices of their choice.

  • Google on the other hand, has multiple serious infractions of not acting neutrally; see the most prominent; TradeComet, My Triggers, Foundem, Ciao, eJustice.FR, Navx, MyStudioBriefing.net, TOTL, Skyhook, Expedia — and these are only the ones that have gone public with their formal charges.
  • And Google routinely self-deals in non-neutrally ranking Google-owned content over competitors content. How can any content compete with a monopoly search engine that advantages its own content over competitors? They can’t. But hey… isn’t that supposed rationale behind the need for net neutrality…?

Second, no major company has called for more heavy-handed Government regulation of its potential competitors than Google has: i.e. 1934 Title II telephone regulation for broadband companies; mandated net neutrality regulation of broadband companies; antitrust enforcement against Microsoft’s browser; antitrust enforcement against Apple to force it to open up its iphone market to Google-AdMob’s monopoly advertising platform; (recent calls for Facebook to open its network): mandated and subsidized smart grid; mandated and subsidized personal health records; etc.

  • Mr. Balto’s mimicking of all the defenses that the companies employ to argue against the heavy handed regulation that Google routinely calls for for its competitors, seems just a tad hypocritical, disingenuous, two-faced, insincere, duplicitous, phony, devious, underhanded, misleading, and goobristic to name just a few of the adjectives that would come to many’s mind.
  • It is particularly interesting that many in the blogosphere and media have not called Google out for this extraordinarily obvious self-serving double standard of Google’s — that the Government should heavily regulate all of Google’s competitors, but never Google, even if Google commits the same offenses repeatedly that Google claims the Government must intervene to stop.

Third, contrary to Mr. Balto’s assertion that Google is not a problem, Google itself has waffled badly in its own defense, weakening its longstanding assertions that Google has always been unbiased and neutral in its search algorithm.

  • Now Google is flip flopping and arguing publicly in an FT op-ed why search should not be neutral.
  • Moreover, Google CEO Schmidt is digging Google even deeper in a hole in recently saying this about Google’s search algorithm: “there is not deliberate favoritism from a business perspective. There is favoritism from what end users prefer, and we have ways to measure that.” This is in stark contrast to Google’s past assertions that it does rank its own Google content over its competitors’ content.

In sum, Google and its allies would be wise to think through their public defense of their actions to be sure that they fit the facts, that they comport with the longstanding representations that Google used to build a critical mass of user trust, and that are not in direct contradiction with their previous defenses.

  • I can imagine Mr. Balto’s next conversation with Google about all this — “Google, we have a problem.”

 

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