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Google does no evil?

© May 2004 Tony Lawrence

Sun May 2 11:05:53 GMT 2004 Google does no evil?

Here's the short version: guy has anti-Bush satirical T-Shirts, Google won't let him advertise them.

Apparently Google is worried about defamatory material, and that's quite understandable. However, this gets uncomfortably close to free speech issues when it is political satire. No, Google isn't the Government, so they can ban any speech they like, or even decide that they'll ban anti-Bush sites while accepting advertising for anti-Kerry T-shirts. Also, this is strictly banning of advertising: the Google search engine will turn up this guys site quite easily.

But Google is the 400 lb gorrilla, and they do have a "Do no evil" motto. There's also the matter that they have announced a soon to come IPO which is expected to pull in big piles of cash and make them even more powerful. Consequently, this type of behaviour has been getting a pile of negative publicity on the web (try a Google search for "Google do no evil" to find it). I do understand the objections and the fears that people have about this, but I'm not sure it's quite as horrible as some say.

This has to be a big headache for Google. If you put yourself in their shoes momentarily, the thought of the potential for lawsuits has to churn your stomach. On the other hand, you apparently have a social conscience and want to play fairly at all times. How do you reconcile these conflicts in a litigatious society? On the search side, Google can argue free speech and freedom of the press (at least in the USA , but the search side has had legal problems in some countries) and can feel that pointing to even the most extreme hate/porn/whatever sites is "safe". But accepting advertising, which then gets placed on other folks sites, well, that's quite a bit more dangerous.

It's also quite a bit more confusing. How much policing effort can you make here? How much are you expected to make and how much is enough to protect you on the legal side? Are you unwillingly dragged into doing evil by worrying about legal consequences? And then there are the shareholders to be: another bunch of legal obligations and concerns.

Ahh, morality. While some detest the very phrase "moral relativism", that's what this is all about, isn't it? We want to be fair, but every time we move, our elbow jabs somebody. Google has a tough row to hoe, here, and I wouldn't enjoy being in their position right now. Me, I'm just looking forward to the IPO.

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The IPO raises its own set of questions. Will the expected enthusiasm and auction-style offering drive the stock to unrealistic levels? Will it be smarter to wait a month or so until reality sets in? Or will folks experience with tech stock plummets of the past cause a more sober beginning?


I'd be more concerned that once the IPO has happened, all those new stockholders will suddenly decide that Google needs to be the Internet police.


Apparently someone expects to make a bundle:


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