03 Jun 2020 Under a Fog of Pablum, Google Promises to Keep Censoring Conservative Content
Alphabet’s virtual annual shareholder meeting today started off in the partisan manner you would expect of Google’s parent company: CEO Sundar Pichai commiserating with the protests against police mistreatment of blacks and minorities, without spending a moment to consider police behavior generally or the suffering of all Americans at the hands of looting and burning mobs that are destroying American cities and returning them to the burned out, abandoned and lawless hulks of the 1970s.
The meeting did not improve as it proceeded. As shareholders, we at the Free Enterprise Project (FEP) submitted a question for Alphabet’s board. The question, written by FEP Director Justin Danhof, noted that Alphabet-owned YouTube has censored scores of educational videos produced by PragerU and Project Veritas, while also taking down videos produced by doctors who question the efficacy of lockdowns and videos critical of the Chinese Communist crackdown on Hong Kong. (An annotated text of Justin’s question is available here.)
This detailed question, when run through the filters of Alphabet staff, was reduced to a few nonsensical bits of guff about “Google’s view of inappropriate content” and “concerns about bias.” Alphabet (unsurprisingly) answered with a bland bit of pablum that nevertheless established that it fully intends to keep on shutting down commentary it dislikes, based on indefensible grounds. According to Kent Walker, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, the plan is to continue to highlight, downgrade or eliminate videos according to the same standards it already has in place – which, he assured shareholders, already sufficiently ensure against politically biased enforcement of YouTube’s rules. (Audio of the comments is available here.)
We all know better, of course, and need look no further for evidence than Alphabet’s unwillingness to address the specific instances of biased and unjustifiable censorship that we raised.
Google benefits mightily from special statutory exemptions from libel, fraud and misrepresentation laws on the basis of its behavior as a supposedly neutral platform, rather than a biased publisher. Now that it has taken on the latter role, its exemptions are – and should be – at risk.
Moreover, Google has behaved for most of its history like a classic monopolist, buying up and crushing competitors to control the market. The antitrust laws on the books, and the precedent arising from those laws, suggest that Google parent company Alphabet should be broken up into competing companies that will be unable to act with the government-like arrogance and willfulness that it currently evinces. Today’s additional showing of high-handedness and disdain for shareholder rights, and its willingness to misrepresent and censor the comments of other actors for its own benefit, just strengthens that growing case for antitrust enforcement and the breakup of Alphabet.
So much for “don’t be evil,” champs.