Google tied search results position to promotion of its own social network, writer says

September 4, 2017 by Ethan Baron, The Mercury News
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

After claims that Google got a think-tank research team fired for criticizing the company, a journalist is alleging other abuses by the company.

A former member of New America Foundation's Open Markets initiative told the New York Times that his team was fired because Google's parent firm Alphabet, a funder, was upset that the team had applauded a huge European Union fine against Google and called on regulators to act against the company and "other dominant platform monopolists."

New America Foundation and Google disputed that account of the demise of Open Markets.

Now, Gizmodo reporter Kashmir Hill is claiming that when she worked for Forbes six years ago, Google told the magazine's staff that if publishers didn't add a button for its "Plus" social network at the bottom of stories, those articles would come up lower in search results.

"Google's dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers," Hill wrote Thursday. "By tying to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network."

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Hill published her story, and "Google promptly flipped out," she wrote. "This was in 2011, around the same time that a congressional antitrust committee was looking into whether the company was abusing its powers.

"I was told by my higher-ups at Forbes that Google representatives called them saying that the article was problematic and had to come down.

"The implication was that it might have consequences for Forbes, a troubling possibility given how much traffic came through Google searches and Google News."

Google did not dispute the story's contents, but said the meeting where the Plus issue was discussed was confidential, Hill wrote. After "continued pressure" from her bosses, she took the story down, even though she had identified herself as a journalist for the meeting and hadn't been told it was confidential, she wrote.

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2 comments

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rderkis
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2017
I am a little confused here. Is google a government agency? Why does anyone have a right to interfere with google as long as they are not breaking the law?
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2017
@rderkis.
I am a little confused here. Is google a government agency? Why does anyone have a right to interfere with google as long as they are not breaking the law?
Google's market penetration and interconnectedness with may on-line 'entities' and businesses' etc etc, gives it effectively a strong (even monopolistic) status which is against the law to exploit based on that unfair advantage/strength to crowd out and/or 'sabotage' (albeit subtly) businesses not paying google for its search/other 'services' (much like the 'protection rackets' of mafia MO).

And then there is the specter of actual FRAUD and MISLEADING 'advertising/information' being given to those innocent/naive 'surfers' using google search and believing the 'results' to be based on objective metrics rather than self-interested monopolistic 'massaging' of results before display.

It's a big problem and should be put right asap; for all involved in the on-line 'market place'.

Cheers.

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