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Can you trust Google to obey the rules? Is Google accountable to anyone?
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Wed, 2008-05-28 17:10
In monitoring Google as closely as I do, it has become increasingly clear that Google does not believe it has to obey the rules, standards, regulations and laws, that others routinely obey and respect. Google increasingly operates like a self-declared, virtual sovereign nation, largely unaccountable to the rules and mores of the rest of the world.
Is Google accountable to anyone?
First, can public shareholders hold Google accountable?
Google's founders created a two-tier stock voting structure where the founders and their original investors have ten votes per share of stock to one vote per share of stock for public shareholders. When Google's founders had the choice to abide by the widely-adopted standard of shareholder democracy -- they refused.
True to form, before their IPO, Google founders did not obey SEC accountability and investor-protection regulations; Google had "issued enormous quantities of stock and options without registering the shares or revealing its financial results to its private shareholders." (See p. 184 "The Google Story" by David Vise)
Ask any institutional Google shareholder, and they will tell you Google provides less investment relevant information or guidance than most any publicly traded company.
Second, can users hold Google accountable?
Google does not work for users; Google works for advertisers and website publishers, which provide virtually all of Google's revenues.
If Google felt accountable to users, do you think it would have been ranked worst in the world in:
Third, can advertisers or publishers hold Google accountable?
The cold reality is that advertisers and publishers know that there is little competition to Google in reaching the global networks necessary for online advertising.
For advertisers and publishers to be able to hold Google truly accountable they would have to have a legitimate competitive alternative to take their business to -- or at least threaten to take it to.
Moreover, if Google was truly accountable to advertisers, why would Click Forensics be able to measure the click fraud rate at 27% of all clicks -- one of the highest fraud rates of any mainstream industry in the world.
Fourth, does Google consider itself accountable to the Supreme Court definition of free speech?
The Homeland Security Committee Chairman recently asked Google to take down terrorist content intended to promote terrorism and incite violence; Google almost immediately and completely refused to comply with this bipartisan request saying that its guidelines protected free speech. As I pointed out in a recent blog post, the Supreme Court is the final constitutional arbiter of what is protected free speech and they have ruled definitively that inciting violence or encouraging law breaking (i.e terrorism) is not protected free speech.
Fifth, can third party groups, watchdogs, or bloggers keep Google accountable?
There is no third party audit or review of Google's search algorithm to ensure that their undisclosed conflict of interest is not compromising the integrity and objectivity of their search results.
Moreover, Google has effectively compromised the independence of most all of the major consumer groups and supposed accountability watchdogs in Washington with:
The whole "media reform" movement run by FreePress / Stop Big Media" has been so totally coopted by Google as its chief corporate ally, that while it rails against offline media consolidation, which is heavily restricted in law and regulation, they are totally impotent and de-fanged on the unprecedented consolidation of online media that Google has already accomplished on the Internet.
Furthermore, most of the blogging community has a financial conflict of interest in covering Google, because Google is the blogosphere's primary source of compensation and monetization.
Bottom line: Google has practically no accountability or checks and balances from: shareholders, users, competition, regulators, or third parties.