Don’t trust Google on Net neutrality

You’ve got to admit that when it comes to public relations, Google totally rocks. The company’s goofy name has become the generic term for “search the Web,” a branding coup your average Madison Avenue marketing wizard would kill his grandmother for. And the company’s motto (“Don’t be evil”) and ostentatious eco-friendliness successfully promote the image of a wacky company that just wants to be your best buddy.

But that’s nothing compared to Google’s amazingly Orwellian effectiveness at re-working terms like “openness” and “neutrality.” On Planet Google, what “openness” really means is “other companies should share their resources so Google can gain a competitive edge.” And “neutrality” means “telcos can’t be trusted to charge fair market rates for the use of their infrastructure, and we need the feds to force them to.”

And the kicker? None of this applies to Google itself. Google can be trusted to do the right thing because . . . well, the company says so. They’re the good guys (just ask ‘em). And telcos are the bad guys. They just are.

Forget “don’t be evil.” Google’s real motto is: “Just trust us (and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain).”

Sorry, fellas, I’m not the trusting sort. And I always worry about the man behind the curtain. The reality behind the propaganda is this: The “open” company’s considerable fortunes are based around the world’s most proprietary search engine. And as for “neutral,” try Googling Google, and you may notice something surprising: very few negative comments on the company pop up. Odd, no?

Google has publicly acknowledged acts of censorship, such as wiping Vice-President Dick Cheney’s residence from satellite maps, and bowing to political pressure to eliminate content from sites in different countries. Neutrality? Not on Planet Google.

The bottom line is that Google’s done a terrific job propagandizing itself and demonizing its competitors. Imagine if Google were owned by a telco: The Net neutrality folks would be marching on Washington, shrieking that no telco can be trusted to operate a search engine fairly. Google, on the other hand, should be free to do exactly what it wants, because they’re the good guys.

Nice try, but no cigar. Here’s what I propose. Google wants Net neutrality? Great! Virtue begins at home. Let the company first propose federal regulation of all search engines to ensure “neutral” rankings of search results, and to guarantee that information isn’t getting concealed (or revealed) for political purposes. Let’s see Google regulate itself, then we’ll consider regulating its competition. I’m not holding my breath. But as I said, I’m not the trusting sort. One thing I’ve learned to count on over the years is a healthy distrust of the motives of large corporations. That includes telcos. And Microsoft. And Google, too.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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