Google Censorship: Competition Beats Regulation
Despite its self-congratulatory assertions of tolerance and diversity, Google is a fraud.
Despite its self-congratulatory assertions of tolerance and diversity, Google is a fraud. Moreover, many of its progressive supporters are hypocrites.
“Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that the left was cheering Google for firing an employee who dared to question the company’s liberal orthodoxy?” asks Investor’s Business Daily. “Now the company is getting battered by the same crowd for allegedly causing a critic to be fired from a think tank.”
The fired employee was engineer James Damore, whose two-pronged dissent was more than the politically correct crowd could endure. In a 10-page memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” he first asserted that Google’s culture was one “which constrains discourse and is complacent to the extremely sensitive PC-authoritarians that use violence and shaming to advance their cause.” Then he committed the ultimate “sin,” suggesting it’s possible the gender gap in certain workplace positions may have to do with the difference between men and women themselves, rather than some sort of implicit bias.
That was a bridge too far. “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” explained Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a staff memo, even as an updated memo stated “that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves” — unless they “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
Progressive reaction? “Even if it creates an anti-PC martyr, firing an employee who was comfortable airing his harmful bigotry is a laudable stand,” asserted Slate columnist April Glaser. “It should have been a no-brainer.”
It was also a no-brainer to assert Damore was a “messenger for an older set of beliefs animating right-wing extremists,” as Quartz columnist Michael J. Coren insisted, or “a hero on the right-wing Internet,” as The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser stated.
In other words, anyone who violates progressive dogma is a right-wing extremist whose firing was wholly justified.
Unfortunately for the self-righteous social justice set, Google’s disdain for dissent snared one of its own. Shortly after Washington think tank New America Foundation posted a piece on its website praising the $2.7 billion fine levied by European antitrust regulators against Google, company chairman Eric Schmidt made his displeasure known to New America president Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Barry Lynn, director of New America’s Open Markets program, wrote the “offensive” post, asserting the EU “is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.” He also urged “US enforcers” to “build upon this important precedent, both in respect to Google and to other dominant platform monopolists including Amazon,” explaining the “traditional American approach to network monopoly … is to cleanly separate ownership of the network from ownership of the products and services sold on that network.”
Lynn’s post was taken down and then reposted hours later. But as The New York Times reported, “word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America,” leaving some people “concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.”
They were right to worry. Last Wednesday, Slaughter informed Lynn “the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways,” according to an email that simultaneously asserted the firing was “in no way based on the content of your work,” while accusing Lynn of “imperiling the institution as a whole.”
Lynn’s 10-member team initially stuck around trying to negotiate with Slaughter, but eventually got the axe as well. In a public statement disputing the Times’ story, Slaughter insisted Google did not lobby New America to expel Open Markets. Instead, she asserted, Lynn “repeatedly refused to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality,” while offering no explanation for his team’s firing.
One might be forgiven for wondering if Slaughter was influenced by the $21 million Google has bestowed on the think tank since 1999, or the fact that New America’s main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.”
Regardless, leftists were suddenly aghast that some of their fellow travelers could be treated like Damore and that Google’s “monopoly” should be broken up. Ultra-leftist Zephyr Teachout, who is chairing Open Markets reincarnation as an independent entity, believes Google “has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power,” reaching a “dangerous point … where it no longer wants to allow dissent.” The New York Times followed up its original story with one entitled “Google’s Disturbing Influence Over Think Tanks,” and the Huffington Post huffed that “Google Just Proved That Monopolies Imperil Democracy, Not Just The Economy.”
The tech giant was hardly chastened. Last Tuesday it issued an ultimatum to The Liberty Conservative (TLC), demanding that the right-leaning website either remove an article Google found offensive, or lose the ability to generate ad revenue from its site.
The email was sent by AdSense, which acts as Google’s ad placement service, and its take on “free” speech is typically leftist: Anything deemed as “hate speech” justifies censorship. Even worse, AdSense stated the particular story was “just an example” of that violation and that “the same violations may exist on other pages of this website or other sites that you own.”
On the TLC website Shane Trejo, media relations director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Michigan, disputed the assertion, insisting the real reason for the warning was that the piece’s author, James Allsup, attended Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” rally. “Although the article itself contained no offensive content,” Trejo stated, “just the fact that it was authored by a man deemed to be an ‘unperson’ by the corporate elite was enough for Google to target it for censorship.”
Allsup is a dodgy individual. But if Trejo is correct and Google is censoring people, how long will it be before Google expands its “enemies list” of those forbidden to publish at all, irrespective of what they write?
Should Google be subjected to antitrust statutes? The company controls 80% of the online search market and 54% of the U.S. browser market. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are similar behemoths, and all have made efforts to control and influence the flow of information, tilting overwhelmingly left in that regard.
But does that make any of them monopolies? Teachout insists Google “is forming into a government of itself,” while admitting it couldn’t succeed in “entirely” silencing New Markets. The New York Post refers to “monopolists who dominate the internet” and The Week’s Ryan Cooper refers to both Google and Facebook as “platform monopolists.”
Perhaps. Or perhaps they provide goods and services millions of people want. And for those that don’t, perhaps there’s a gargantuan opportunity for non-progressive entrepreneurs to set up alternative platforms. Better that than giving government another opportunity to put its regulatory thumb on the scale.
Are the aforementioned corporations run by largely obnoxious, self-aggrandizing leftists? You betcha. But a free society is about competition, not censorship. Leftists would prefer the latter, now that the Wrath of Google has touched one of theirs.
Conservatives? Censorship is easy. Free-market principles are hard.