Thursday, October 11, 2007

Google: Too Much Power?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be looking into some issues related to Web Filtering and Censorship.)

This week in class we have been discussing the concepts of web filtering and censorship. Censorship has always been a topic of interest to me. As much as I agree with any company's right to include or exclude whatever products or services they choose, I do think there is an ethical consideration for any business to consider carefully to whom they market and how. As I have mentioned previously, a great deal of motivation behind my creating this blog comes from the firm belief that a lot of companies are sorely lacking in ethical considerations when it comes to marketing claims and the audiences to which they market.

When looking at a company like Google, which has not only become the leading search engine in the world but is also rapidly adding services to their menu and has become the place of choice for a variety of web services (including the platform this blog is written on, Blogger), I can't help but think: is it right for one single company to effectively hold the torch for such a huge and impactful phenomena such as the Internet?

Apparently I am not the only one with this question in mind. One well-known site, GoogleWatch.org, chronicles other publications questioning Google's authority such as Is Google God? And this past spring, Microsoft itself was trying to take a stance against a Google-opoly, as it has been called. (Oh the irony).

I also had some personal experiences recently that bolstered my concern. I launched a pay-per-click campaign with Google, and after awhile many of the keywords I included (I decide what keywords would trigger my ad to view, or so I thought) were suspended. The reason given was that Google's logarithm (used to determine relevance) was suspending them. Alternatively, I had the option to give them (in some cases) three times more money and they would turn my keywords back on. Pfft.

Also, last year's decision by Google to comply with the Chinese Government's Internet blocking campaign by setting up a filtered search engine for China has met with much criticism from the human rights arena.

I don't dispute the usefulness of Google and their services, and undoubtedly the talent of the people working there, I just worry anytime one company has such a hold on such a new and powerful technology, and the power to dictate the direction of it.

2 comments:

Andria said...

Interesting on the Google ads. I guess your keywords worked too well?

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