Despite another week of mass shooting of people in the USA, there is a bit of an argument about freedom to use guns. For the past few weeks, US internet users of Google’s shopping tab have found that guns and ammunition no longer appear as available.
It’s causing a flurry in some quarters in a nation where the constitution gives citizens ‘the right to own and bear arms.’
Why the fuss?
Well, the new shopping service is governed by Google policies that forbid the promotion of weapons or ‘devices designed to cause harm or injury’.
The National Rifle Association has called Google all sorts of names as it adopted a ‘new and discriminatory policy’ against owners of guns.
Arms are not legally available in the UK, so how does it concern us? It matters because the real story in this is Google’s new shopping service listings are only those from companies that have paid to be there.
No longer is it a simple product listing facility based on search criteria. Before, it would reflect whatever people were seeking, so weapons and related materials appeared.
Now only paid-for advertising secures a mention. Now Google shopping has joined most of the money comparison websites. Now the consumer can only see what is paid for.
People who are happy with this (including most Google staff) argue that on TV all people see by way of a choice is what advertisers have paid to broadcast to them. But that argument falls when it is realised, that ad breaks do not offer a seek-and-find service so there is no pretence of impartiality.
A shame really. Imagine being able to choose your ads between chunks of Midsomer Murders! Perhaps they could offer a two minute slice of peaceful calming music selling nothing but joy or pure silence, a bit like when juke boxes started in the late 1940s, people could buy two minutes of silence.
The Evil Empire?
This is not meant as a rant against Google on any grounds. It’s merely pointing out the way the search engine machine grows and works. Others take a different view.
You can Google (of course) any major company from Microsoft to Tesco, from Coca Cola to BP, and there are sites galore showing how much people hate the companies. Or should hate them.
In Google’s case, ‘Google is more evil than Microsoft ever was’ opens with 4 quotes from former CEO, Eric Smith, described as ‘criminally insane’:
1. ‘Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.’
2. ‘We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.’
3. ‘Most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.’
4. ‘The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’’
The site admits it’s always easier to look back on something and analyse it rather than seeing what’s truly happening at is goes along. But they were the core product, better, cleaner than rivals and run by hip youngsters and they weren’t Microsoft. Once Google entered the language, they were made.
It’s not possible to contact Google unless you are a big journalist. Forcing them to listen to a complaint is like ‘screaming in outer space’. All services are streamlined to tick boxes and standardised replies, so why do they need to reply?
Content, Companies and Power
This anti-Google site says that whether it’s closing down Google-Ad accounts without explanation to hosting content of a questionable nature, Google do it their way. They even host content that is critical of them. Everything they handle earns money.
In March last year, Danny Sullivan posted a blog called 25 Things I Hate About Google, an updated piece on his first thoughts in 2006. He points out that he is not a Google-hater, admires much of what they do and simply wants them to improve.
He cites web search results that make no sense or are not properly counted; serving up sites you’ve already seen (results clustering); experimenting with user interface to create confusion; too much caching of pages; confusing with AdWords, AdSense, DomainSense; failure to act fast on copyrighting infringements; Gmail is too restrictive; and he urges Google to remember ‘it’s about search not selling’
And that last one is the crux, isn’t it? Searching is selling, selling is searching. Every event, moment, activity (highs or lows) are a retailing opportunity for somebody. And Google can hardly be blamed for thinking that ‘somebody’ might as well be them!
Danny Sullivan, 25 Things I Hate About Google
Image: Chris 73