When Product and Behavior Do Not Match Rhetoric|
Anyone who has ever used the Internet has used at least one of Google.com's services. This month's polluter presents a challenge for two reasons, first there is so much content that it is virtually impossible to cover all of it in this forum and second they are so popular that many folks may be offended by a criticism of this organization.
The root of our concern with Google is their severe disconnect between its company motto "Don't be evil" and their actual business practices.
Google's company motto...taken from their own web site:
"Don't be evil." Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But "Don't be evil" is much more than that. Yes, it's about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it's also about doing the right thing more generally -- following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect. ( http://investor.google.com/corporate/code-of-conduct.html)
On the surface this sounds like an honorable policy, but the problem lies in the question - Who defines what is evil?
In Google's case, the company concedes that "evil" is ultimately defined by Sergey Brin, one of their original founders. One can make a reasonable judgment on Mr. Brin's definition of evil by taking a close look at Google's corporate behavior and search engine. Unfortunately, the results rarely fit most traditional Judeo-Christian definitions of "doing no evil".
As a result, we are focusing on two areas of concern. Google's business practices and the content of their search engine.
On the business side, Google has been accused of bias1, censorship2 and invasion of privacy3 , just to name a few instances. These accusations are very valid. You can learn more about them by clicking on the links in the footnotes below and by reviewing the Pollutants section in the right hand column.
CulturalPolluters.com is concerned that Google is The leading doorway to immoral, destructive and violent content on the Internet. No image, no content, no behavior is off limits for their search engine. Anything and everything is available without limit or control. Google does, however, have a "safe" search option, if it can be called such, which is completely voluntary and is turned off by default. In fact, any search term submitted renders results that include very vulgar and profane material.
More significantly, even innocent search terms will produce vulgar and immoral content. For example, if a user searches for a name of a person (especially female) the results will include pornographic images, links and videos. More often than not, the pornographic links rise to the top of the list ahead of the more innocent content. Other innocent terms which often have duplicate meanings will also include a pornographic list and in fact most search terms will produce immoral content.
"In the past our Internet filter could help protect families from immoral search content, but recent changes by Google actually embed the pornographic images in the search results making it impossible to separate the good links/images from the bad ones!" (Steve Ensley CEO of American Family Online - http://www.afo.net)
Google could control content, just as they demonstrated when they censored all political content in China. They have the ability and the resources to create a safer search environment, but they choose not to do so for the sake of profits.
By Google deliberately manipulating data to allow pornographic images and other content to permeate their search engine results, and allowing content to "skirt" many user's legitimate efforts to block that type of material, is the company following its motto of "Don't be evil"? Again, we submit it depends on Who is defining evil.
If you are an investor or own Google stock, is this what you want to support? You can find more information on keeping your portfolio clean at www.screenit-cleanit.com
1 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1584434/Pro-life-charity-sues-Google-over-anti-abortion-advert.html
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Google
3 - http://news.cnet.com/Are-Googles-moves-creeping-you-out/2100-1032_3-6190319.html