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Is Google politically neutral? or is Google trying to skew elections?

Given how extremely politically activist Google-YouTube has become, I thought it might be instructive to revisit my earlier blogpost from January where I asked: "is Google-Youtube a politically neutral gateway to Internet content and videos?"

Lets review how extremely politically active Google has become in just the last few months?

  • Google-YouTube co-hosted with CNN a Democratic Presidential candidate debate this summer and will cohost with CNN a Republican Presidential candidate debate this fall.
  • The Googleplex headquarters has been a "magnet" for Presidential fundraising having hosted visit/fundraisers for Democratic Presidential candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and Richardson, and Republican candidate McCain.
  • The New York Times today had a major business article on Silicon Valley's/Google's political fundraising that shed some more light on the reach of Google's political influence.

So why is it instructive to revisit whether Google is in fact a politically neutral gateway to Internet content?

  • Google's search engine is how ~65% of Americans nationally search for information and news on the Internet per Hitwise.
  • Google now has the single biggest audience for content in the United States, over
    states, over 130 million Americans
    (300m x 70% on line x 65% use Google for search).
    • No other content audience is even close to Google in breadth of national reach.
    • Google now has a far more concentrated content market share than any TV or radio network, or newspaper.
    • Media concentration concerns have long been a political hot-button issue because politicians of all stripes don't take kindly to one company controlling and filtering too much of the political discourse.
      • Politicians fear that if an owner of a network or news outlet dominated too much of the information flow they could skew or throw an election.
  • Google's political activism is also relevant because Google has a very ambitious and ravenous appetite for special favors and corporate welfare in Washington:
    • net neutrality protection from broadband competition; and
    • open access wireless spectrum subsidies of billions of dollars.
  • Lastly, and most interestingly is Google's "political sales" effort to get politicians elected as reported in a recent front page Wall Street Journal article: "Google goes to Washington with its own brand of lobbying."
    • "...about 150 young Democratic operatives-in-training recently munched on animal crackers as Google Inc. executives pitched the Internet company's offerings. Google's newly hired team leader for political sales, Peter Greenberger, explained how attendees could use online ads and other services from Google to help their candidates win. ... "It's free." Free in the sense that Google isn't charging money for the service. But the Internet giant is ultimately hoping for something in return: greater influence in the nation's capital. As Google's ambitions grow -- along with the ranks of its rivals -- the company is relying on people like Mr. Greenberger to reinvent corporate influence-peddling for the Internet Age. Instead of just hiring a roster of lobbyists and tossing out millions of dollars in campaign contributions, Google has embarked on a quiet march through the conference rooms of Washington to explain how its products can help politicians get elected."

Now back to my original question.

  • Which politicians is Google trying to get elected and is there any transparency for this new "influence peddling for the Internet age" as the WSJ described it?
  • This is a very relevant question because Google has more private information on more Americans than any other entity in the US.
    • Through people's private search profiles, they know people's political affiliations, race, sexual preferences, issue hot buttons, congressional district and much more.
    • The huge political question is -- is Google sharing any of that extremely sensitive and political information with any campaign? or only one party?
    • And if they are, which campaign, and what are they getting in return?

Once again, is Google politically neutral?