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Bullying is “How Google Works” – Ask Law Enforcement

Google will bully most any entity or anyone, if it thinks it can get away with it.

Google just filed a highly-unusual, and exceptionally-aggressive, lawsuit that asks a Federal Court to issue a restraining order to preemptively shut down a broad and ongoing State Attorney Generals law enforcement investigation into Google’s alleged willful blindness to advertising and profiting from well-known, recurring, illegal activities on Google’s platform.

  • (Critical context here is that in 2011, Google admitted criminal liability -- for knowingly advertising for rogue pharmacies dispensing drugs without a prescription for seven years, despite repeated Government warnings to stop doing so – in a Federal Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA), which mandated Google pay a $500 million criminal forfeiture penalty.
  • Importantly, the State investigations at issue in this particular Google lawsuit have found evidence that Google continues its proven illegal activity, despite the NPA.)   

In a GoogleBlog post preceding its lawsuit, Google also not-so-subtly threatened the state AGs implicitly that it would ‘go SOPA’ on state law enforcement, if they did not back off investigating Google’s illegal activities.

  • (‘Going SOPA’ is when Google successfully bullied Congress by misleading and agitating its users to stir up the equivalent of an online mob to flood the government with millions of emails and calls to not “censor” Google’s free speech – like Google orchestrated in leading the killing of popular and bipartisan, SOPA-PIPA, anti-piracy legislation in essentially one-day in 2012.)

In an understandable response to Google’s lawsuit, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood issued a statement calling for a “time out, so that cooler heads may prevail,” while standing firm that Google must cooperate with its investigation and urging interested parties to read the AG’s letters and Google’s own [NPA] plea agreement so that they “can reach their own conclusions about Google’s conduct.”

Google’s legal maneuver here is so cocky, risky, and political that it creates the appearance that Google somehow has come to believe confidently in advance that the Justice Department will side with Google in Federal court before it has seen both sides’ arguments and evidence.

That’s because without the Justice Department’s strong public backing of Google’s case, Google faces a high-bar to win a preliminary injunction against Government law enforcement, since there is a legitimate administration of justice interest in letting law enforcement have the full opportunity under due process, to investigate and prove its case in court, and protect consumers from serious and dangerous public harms.

Google self-servingly asserts that only Google faces irreparable harm in this matter, when the public clearly faces irreparable harm if Google is preemptively granted immunity from prosecution for seriously harmful illegal activities, before a court has had the opportunity to hear all the facts in the case under due process.

Simply, Google is bullying here to try to delay and shut down legal discovery and law enforcement, so it can force a politically-negotiated settlement on terms much more to its liking.   

Importantly, this is not the first time Google has bullied law enforcement.

In 2012, a lawyer representing Google in a Delaware state court boasted that Google got the DOJ to “muzzle” the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney from discussing the Google-DOJ $500m criminal forfeiture settlement because the U.S. Attorney was "so far off the reservation that the Justice Department apologized to Google for it and muzzled him," per the WSJ.

Also in 2012, Google thwarted the Texas State AG antitrust investigation into Google by refusing to comply with the State’s subpoena and investigation by claiming most all Google’s emails were subject to attorney-client privilege, even when no lawyer was included in the emails.

In 2013, Google agreed to an FTC-Google Consent Decree to stop Google from anti-competitively bullying patent-holders with threats of denying them use of Google’s Standard Essential Patents at the contractually-required fair and reasonable rates.    

Google has bullied European law enforcement as well.

In 2014, “a director in the European Commission's justice department has accused Google of being 'passive-aggressive' towards EU data protection rules,” per The Telegraph, in part because Google encourages users to evade the Court’s decision by using America’s for their searches, and because Google politically characterizes the court ruling as “censorship.”

In 2014, Google separately bullied German and Spanish publishers into allowing their content to be used by Google News for free under Google’s threat of removing their content from Google News and its dominant search engine index.

In 2013, the European Commission stopped Google from anti-competitively bullying European patent holders with threats of denying them use of Google’s Standard Essential Patents at the contractually-required fair and reasonable rates.     

Apparently Google successfully bullied the EC DG for Competition Joaquin Almunia, because despite multiple public threats of issuing a Statement of Objections against Google, he steadfastly advocated for a political settlement that would shut down the EC-Google search investigation for five years without any ruling of dominance, abuses of dominance, or admission of wrongdoing.

Note that this legal outcome is eerily similar to the absolution outcome Google seeks to gain in its lawsuit to shut down State law enforcement investigations of Google’s aiding and abetting of illegal activities on the Google platform.   

Importantly, Google also bullies those who dare to try and hold Google to account.

In a detailed 2014 open letter from the German publishing CEO of Axel Springer, Mathias Döpfner, he explained the bullying Google does in the European marketplace and candidly admitted “we are afraid of Google.”

In 2005 per CNET, Google bullied CNET, by blackballing all CNET reporters from access to Google employees for a year in response to a CNET article on privacy that showed Google was hypocritical in its privacy stance in having one privacy standard for Google and another for the public.

Behind the scenes, Google has also bullied, intimidated and tried to discredit watchdogs who dare to try and hold Google to account.

When Privacy International ranked Google worst in the world on privacy in its 2007 report, Google orchestrated a “smear campaign” with reporters to undermine the integrity of the report and its authors.

Google had to apologize for bullying and intimidating a foundation donor to not fund a Google watchdog group, Consumer Watchdog.

USA Today reported how Google bullies the media to not quote Google critics like antitrust expert Gary Reback and me. And an Investors Business Daily article also explained how Google seeks to censor and discredit my accountability research on Google.

In sum, Google is a bully and fosters a bullying culture at Google.

Ask any law enforcement authority, which has tried to subject Google to the rule of law, or ask any injured parties in the marketplace who have sought redress from Google harms under the law, and they will have their own stories of Google bullying and intimidation. Bullying is “How Google Works.”

To escape accountability to the rule of law, Google routinely politicizes its circumstances to represent itself as the pure, “Don’t be evil,’ innocent victim that has done nothing wrong, while behind-the-scenes demonizing with ad hominem attacks -- anyone that dares to try and hold Google to account.

Given Google’s well-documented, exceptional and proliferating digital dominance, serial bad acts, and digital dictates, we are wise to heed Thomas Jefferson’s famous wisdom: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."



“How Google Works” Series

Part 1: Google Profiting from Hacked Celebrity Women Photos is “How Google Works” [10-6-14]

Part 2:  Stealing from Competitors is “How Google Works” [10-20-14]

Part 3: Evading Sovereign Accountability is “How Google Works” [12-10-14]