It’s a tired old tale, but one that bears repeating over and over again. Google’s search engine is the go-to resource for those seeking pirated content online. There’s a long line of Google critics, myself included, who decry the search giant’s defiant and arrogant attitude in response to requests that it modify its search engine to mitigate damage done to content creators by online pirates.
James Murdoch, co-COO of 21st Century Fox has added his voice to calls for change, speaking out at a TV conference in Cannes. According to a report in The Guardian, Murdoch took issue with Google’s response to News Corp CEO Robert Thomson’s recent characterization of Google search as “a platform for piracy” in a letter sent to an EU commissioner.
“There’s no question that they can do more. A lot more. Certainly Google’s not right in saying they’re doing more than anyone. That just isn’t true,” he said.
“The problem with Google … Actually, let’s not personalize this. The problem with search-driven discovery, if the content is there and it’s illegal and you’re just selling clicks as a big ad network, you have every incentive for that illegal programming to be there. That’s fundamentally not really good enough.”
No, it isn’t good enough. As I wrote last week, Google’s claim that it’s a leader in the fight against piracy is gobbledygook. Of course Google, being Google, can say pretty much anything its wants since content creators are powerless in the face of its corporate largess and lobbying. A recent story in the Washington Post, “Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence” shined a spotlight on the search giant’s growing domination (and control).
The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence.
That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.
The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business.
When even big corporate entities like News Corp and 21st Century Fox appear powerless in the face of Googleiath’s growing dominance, you know we’re in trouble. Perhaps the European Union will punish Google for anti-trust violations, but even threats of a 6 billion dollar fine are unlikely to change Google’s scorched earth business practices and tainted profits. As its influence expands and evolves, so too does the moral code by which it operates. Problem is, it’s a code of Google’s own making.