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Conflict of Interest

Top Ten Advertiser Questions for Google CEO Schmidt

1.   Why has Google been so hostile to protecting brand trademarks that companies have had to resort to suing Google to get any satisfactory brand respect?  

2.   Why is Google's Chrome browser so hostile to brand-marketing? 

  • If a user types in a company brand name as a www. ... .com URL into Chrome's "Omnibox," Google's browser always takes the user to Google's copy of the website first and not to the requested company's branded website where the brand-company can benefit from the visit or click-thru information that their brand advertising has earned.
    • In other words, is Google leveraging its fast-growing, Chrome browser technology, used by 30 million people, to become a gatekeeper for harvesting branding online? 

3.   Why is Google's  AdWords "Quality Score" policy so hostile to online brand marketing? 

  • Google's Adwords quality-score policy rewards fast-loading sites and punishes slow-loading landing pages, which are inherently slower because they rely on display/rich-media brand-building advertising. 
  • If brand destinations become weaker online, would advertisers then have to depend on Google more to be discovered on the Internet?     

4.   Why does Google publicly deny that it works for advertisers... which generate 97% of Google's revenues? Is Google somehow not proud of advertising or their advertisers?

Why Google Is Not Neutral

After discussing whether Google should buy the New York Times, Google decided against it because it "would damage its 'neutral' identity", per Ken Auletta's just-published book "Googled: The End of The World as We know It." 

  • Google has long claimed to be neutral. Their corporate philosophy statement claims: "We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust."  
  • As the world-leading corporate proponent of an industrial policy to mandate net neutrality for all its potential broadband competitors in cloud computing, and as the beneficiary of "The Google Loophole" in the FCC's proposed open Internet regulations (para 104), it is fair to stress test whether Google's claim of a "neutral' identity is true or just cleverly-executed PR.

Is Google Neutral?

First, by the standards of Google's own co-founders, Google's search advertising model is not neutral.

Google Voice's Plea for Special FCC Treatment

Google responded to the FCC's questions that effectively address whether or not Google Voice should be subject to the FCC's proposed net neutrality regulations.

In a nutshell, Google basically asserted that it is acceptable for a benevolent provider of free services like Google Claus to discriminate and block calls as an information service voice provider, but it is unaccceptable for profit-seeking broadband voice and information service providers to discriminate or block calls.

More evidence Google's not neutral... and seeks to be the supreme arbiter of "truth" on the Internet

Google again has blocked search advertising that promotes political views that Google does not share.

  • On the morning of the FCC's net neutrality vote last week, Bret Glass of tried to advertise his white paper, that advocated a light regulatory touch, on Google Adwords only to find that Google blocked his ad as not meeting their "guidelines." (See Mr. Glass' full recounting of this non-neutral content blocking incident at the end of this post.) 
    • This is not the first time Google has blocked content that did not comport with Google's political/policy agenda. For example, Google blocked ads proposed by a U.S. Senator's campaign.

The "relevance" of this evidence of net neutrality violations by Google, to the FCC's just-proposed net neutrality regulations, is that the FCC's clearly stated purposes are: to prevent companies with market power from infringing on free speech and to ensure that those with market power are transparent about their market practices that affect the free flow of information. 

Goobris Alert: "We want to be Santa Claus"

I kid you not. Google's latest antitrust defense, from the mouth of Dana Wagner, Google's lead antitrust lawyer, is: "We want to be Santa Claus. We want to make lots of toys that people like playing with. But if you don't want to play with our toys, you've got us."

  • See the quote for yourself at the very end of a Globe and Mail article entitled: "Google: we're not evil and we're not a monopoly either."
    • Google's Mr. Wagner continues: “In a West Coast company run by engineers, I don't think there was much attention paid to being in Ottawa, being in D.C. and telling your story,” Mr. Wagner says. “If you don't tell your story, other people do it for you.

Let me attempt to unpack the irony of this new story/metaphor of which Google has taken ownership. 

Most companies when they tell their corporate "story" try to "put their best foot forward," but no one but Google would think to try and slip jolly megalomaniacal corpulence down the narrow chimney of public credibility.  

Only Google would have so little real-world self-awareness as to choose to wrap itself in the beloved mythical role of Santa Claus who has the unique power to decide who has been good or "evil" during the last year, and the unique power to reward those who have been "good" in Google's eyes with toys and punish those who have been "evil" with coal in their stocking. 

Only Google would think it was good PR to allude to Google's secret search algorithms and auction "quality scores" as a worldwide "naughty and nice" list.

Is Google News neutral on net neutrality?

Pasted below is a copy of Google News listing from today that highlights only a very Google-friendly quote from Gigi Sohn in a slew of articles that are tough on Google's top public policy priority -- net neutrality.

  • Is this coincidence?
  • Is this a one time instance or mistake?
  • Or is Google using Google News as an undisclosed advocacy arm of Google?
  • It certainly wouldn't be neutral or transparent if Google is using Google News to promote its side of a pet and controversial public policy priority without any disclosure... 

I wonder what Google's explanation of this potential problem is... or if anyone at the FCC is interested in learning more about how Google programs its Google News algorithm...


Who really funds FreePress and its net neutrality allies?

I posted the comment below on the Washington Post's IT blogpost where FreePress urged the the Post to disclose its financial interests in cable systems.

FreePress hounds any voice that doesn't support 'net neutrality'  regulation to disclose their financial interests, like they did with urging the Washington Post to disclose that they owned cable systems in their editorial opposing net neutrality. I agree they should have disclosed, but I don’t agree that disclosure is only important for net neutrality opponents, but not for proponents like FreePress and its allies. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.   


FreePress has frequently attacked me as a shill and Astroturf. They ignore that I openly, unabashedly, and regularly disclose that my firm Precursor LLC is an industry consulting firm that works for companies and that I am Chairman of which is funded by broadband interests. It is not news that I strongly agree with the broadband sector view that markets produce better outcomes for consumers than regulation.

FreePress wants transparency for everybody but FreePress

FreePress' standard gameplan is to avoid engaging issues on the merits by constantly attacking opponents as biased corporate "shils" or "astroturf" that no one should listen to. I have long been up front that I represent broadband interests. FreePress, and their supporters, however, do not live up to the transparency standard that they demand of others.  

For example, FreePress' urged Washington Post reporter Cecilia Kang to post that The Washington Post editorial opposing net neutrality "The FCC's Heavy Hand" should have disclosed the Post's ownership of cable properties. On that basic point of transparency/disclosure I agree. 

However, when it comes to the news, Ms. Kang appears to have failed to disclose her increasingly obvious bias for promoting FreePress and their net neutrality agenda.

Where is Public Knowledge on Google's Call Blocking?

Just a year ago, Public Knowledge wrote a letter to the FCC in strong opposition to long distance carriers blocking phone calls from "traffic pumping" sites that the carriers alleged were fraudulently gaming/arbitraging the access charge subsidy system. 

  • ("Traffic pumping" is a regulatory arbitrage scheme where some rural carriers offer specialty-websites in order to bring basically one-way traffic to an access charge financial system designed for two-way offsetting traffic. The effect is that the rural carrier/specialty-site effectively turns the carriers into a one-way ATM machine where they can take money out of the system without having to put any in.)  

Now that Google is alleged to be doing the same thing that the FCC and Public Knowledge said carriers could not do, i.e. blocking calls to these same sites, where is Public Knowledge in objecting?

  • If Public Knowledge's views are principled and truly based on forwarding the public interest, it should be only a matter of time that Public Knowledge formally and strongly objects to the FCC in writing -- for Google doing the same thing that Public Knowledge strongly objected to when carriers did it.
  • Principle is principle.      





The Crux of the Google Book Settlement

The crux of the Google Book settlement will be whether the Court effectively sanctions the creation of one de facto world digital book library, or whether it will facilitate the continued proliferation of many libraries of digital books throughout the world. 

  • Put differently, will the legal settlement of the greatest alleged book theft in world history -- de facto concentrate control over access to digital books into the hands of only one entity -- Google (the alleged copyright violator)...
  • Or will the settlement preserve the current longstanding competitive/cooperative system of  public, private, and academic libraries where control over access to books is dispersed among many independent and diverse organizations around the country and the world?  

The Internet Archive, a "non-profit library," recently petitioned the Court to try and ensure the diverse latter outcome and not the concentrated former outcome.