Google Censorship: An Overview

The following article covers accusations of censorship pertaining to Google platforms including YouTube and the search facility. I ask whether Google is engaged in a political-moral project; whilst highlighting the intimate relations between Google and the US government, and in particular the Democrat party. I suggest that the relationship is an example of (to use government jargon): “21st-century statecraft”.

On 25th April 2017 Google’s Vice President of Search Engineering Ben Gomes declared Google’s intention to modify its search algorithms so as to combat “fake news”. Providing the single example of Holocaust denial, Gomes describes “fake news” as content on the web [that contributes] to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information”. Central to Google’s effort is the hiring of over 10,000 ‘search quality evaluators’, who’s role is to evaluate the ‘quality’ of search results according to guidelines; information that Google then uses to modify its algorithms. According to the guidelines the most relevant factors for determining a website’s quality include exhibition of expertise, reputation, whether the website can be sourced, and the quality and amount of information provided. The idea is that ‘high quality’ websites should appear at the top of search results.

Prima facie, such censorship — for that is what it is — appears a noble cause; at least as far as it is concerned with improving the veracity of available information. Nevertheless, members of both the left and right are accusing Google’s censorship policy of being politically motivated. David North, the Chairperson of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site, — a socialist publication with Trotskyist leanings, — claims for example that the implementation of these changes has seen Google searches generate “within just one month, a 70 percent drop in traffic” to the World Socialist Web Site — hardly what would be expected if a consequence of the aforementioned guidelines. Moreover, David North claims to have obtained statistical information from SEMrush highlighting “a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites” in general; referring in particular to traffic generated by Google searches for the following thirteen websites over the period of May to August 2017:

· fell by 67 percent

· fell by 63 percent

· fell by 62 percent

· fell by 47 percent

· fell by 47 percent

· fell by 42 percent

· fell by 37 percent

· fell by 36 percent

· fell by 36 percent

· fell by 30 percent

· fell by 25 percent

· fell by 21 percent

· fell by 19 percent

Putting aside the fact that the feedback generated by the search quality evaluators — none of whom have been identified, nor the criteria of their selection explained — is open to human bias; political bias is arguably implicit in the guidelines themselves. For example consider the application of the term “fact”, which is applied in the guidelines to historical information. Although not explicitly and positively defined, “fact” finds its counterpart in the term “consensus” as applied to scientific topics — “the consensus of whom?” one may ask, to which the guidelines’ answer is unequivocally ‘experts’. Expertise however is established at least in part by reference to reputation — an expected guideline nonetheless granted non-experts are being asked to determine expertise. The upshot however is that this guideline ignores the possibility of unfair reputation manipulation, such as through character assassination. Indeed, the guidelines recommend “the Anti-Defamation League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center” as sources for reputation research; both of which have been accused of political partiality. The Anti-Defamation League has for example been accused by Noam Chomsky of “having lost entirely its focus on civil rights issues in order to become solely an advocate of Israeli policy”; and the Southern Poverty Law Center has been accused of “taking up the left flank of the culture wars on issues like LGBT rights, church-state division, Islam and immigration”.

Expertise becoming a function of reputation likewise takes a sinister tone when contextually considered in relation to the guidelines’ claim that “factually accurate content [is a product of] high quality news sources”, by which is clearly intended the mainstream media granted the examples provided — namely, USA Today and BBC. For when it is effectively legal for the US government to use propaganda against US citizens due to the nullification in 2013 of a legally enshrined distinction drawn between foreign and domestic audiences; when Reporters Without Borders latest annual World Press Freedom Index has warned “[we] have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms — especially in democracies”; and when trust in mainstream media is plummeting globally, with for example only 24% of UK respondents to an annual trust survey by Edelman trusting the media as of the beginning of 2017; the notion that mainstream media consistently provides factually accurate content is laughable, casting suspicion thereby on Google for promoting the mainstream media’s veracity. Indeed, only recently did various news outlets falsely report the launching of a ballistic missile by Iran.

At the very least the guidelines’ reference to “historical facts” is suspicious as, unlike the term “consensus”, “fact” smuggles in a sense of indubitable truth; a sense which in its utility is the goal no less of propaganda, and a ‘truth’ in relation to which we have been warned — history is, after all, written by the victors.

Reading the guidelines as implicitly propagandised would likewise fit nicely with the negative definition of “fact” as not “unsubstantiated conspiracy theor[y]”; for contemporaneously applied ‘conspiracy theory’ is a derisive term implying synonymously “fake news” — “fake news” being of course the motivation behind Google’s push towards censorship. This is particularly pertinent within a climate where mainstream media is targeting alternative media as a source of ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘fake news’; especially granted the whole ‘fake news’ debacle began during the 2016 US presidential elections as a political response to the successes of Donald Trump — successes for which alternative media were held responsible. As Karol Markowicz contends: “Scrambling for an explanation for Donald Trump’s victory, many in the media and on the left have settled on the idea that his supporters were consumers of “fake news” — gullible rubes living in an alternate reality […]. What the left is trying to do is designate anything outside its ideological bubble as suspect”.

Censorship Outside the Search Engine

Outside the search engine, Google has been explicit about promoting censorship beyond a mere concern with improving the veracity of information. Google is for example developing a software called Perspective that “scores comments based on the perceived impact a comment might have on a conversation”; which Google states is for the purpose of managing “abuse and harassment online” — technology that could be applied, at no stretch of the imagination, for the purpose of political censorship; and indeed, Google is looking into “releasing more machine learning models”.

Google has likewise been accused of engaging in political censorship due to effectively blocking the white supremacist ‘Daily Stormer’ domain after it was transferred over having been booted from GoDaddy as a response to the climate surrounding the August 12th Charlottesville event — GoDaddy who the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center had been appealing to for months to cease the provision of domain registration services to Daily Stormer. The CEO of Cloudflare Matthew Prince who, likewise in response to Charlottesville, ceased the provision of server-hosting services to Daily Stormer, has stated that his decision was “arbitrary” and “dangerous”, and that: “It’s important that what we did today not set a precedent. The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral”. Echoing Prince, Cindy Cohn of the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation commented: “We strongly believe that what [Google] did here was dangerous. […]. Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one — not the government and not private commercial enterprises — should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t”.

Google, citing a violation of its ‘Hate Speech’ policy, has even removed from its Play Store a Twitter-like mobile application the very premise of which is free speech. As Utsav Sanduja, Gab’s spokesperson stated: “Whatever is permissible under the First Amendment is what Gab allows onto its site”.

Google defines hate speech as follows: “Hate speech refers to content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes, such as: race”. Putting aside the inherent arbitrariness of defining hate speech beyond the incitement of violence; which has resulted in Google having to circularly define hate in terms of hate; Flemming Rose — a contributor to the online version of the most circulated daily newspaper in Spain, El Pais — reminds us: “European hate speech laws are legitimized by the UN covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was adopted in 1966. […] The article was initiated by the Soviet bloc. Eleanor Roosevelt who chaired the UN Human Rights Committee warned that it could be used by any dictator to silence criticism”.

Censorship on YouTube

The introduction of censorship to YouTube was initially promised on 21st March by Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler in order to placate major brands and advertisers who had boycotted Google’s platforms on the basis that their “ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values”; a boycott that was a direct result of pressure applied by the mainstream media in the form of exposés published by The Times and The Wall Street Journal; namely, the February 9th Times article highlighting: “Some of the world’s biggest brands are unwittingly funding Islamic extremists [and] white supremacists […] by advertising on[YouTube]”; and the March 24th Wall Street Journal article highlighting that YouTube was still showing major brands’ adverts on racist videos, including as an example a Coca-Cola advert running on a video titled with the word ‘n*****’. As of February The Wall Street Journal was also embroiled with fans of YouTube contributor Felix Kjellberg — the highest earning YouTube contributor as of 2016 having 53 million subscribers — over publicised allegations of anti-semitism, which resulted in Disney severing their ties with Kjellberg. Concerns over the use of online advertising revenue in general originally arose however as a response of the role of alternative media sources in the successes of Donald Trump. As the New York Times — a newspaper described by Julian Assange as ‘compromised’ — published in December 2016: “the marketing industry is facing a moral quandary in the face of a national debate over the role that fake news played in the presidential election and the realization that many websites that promote false and misleading stories are motivated by the money they can make from online advertising”.

As of August 1st 2017 Youtube’s official blog has provided the latest updates regarding the mission to target hate speech, terrorism, and extremism on its platform; including the following proviso enabling arbitrary decision-making when it comes to determining what content is to be censored: “If we find […] videos [that] don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state” — a ‘limited state’ that prevents their being promoted or monetised. Indeed, YouTube’s official policy states that such controversial content — namely, “inflammatory religious or supremacist content” — can be ‘limited’ even when there is not “a primary purpose of inciting hatred”. In order to identify the offending material a ‘Trusted Flagger’ program has been established that currently draws on the ‘expertise’ of 78 NGOs and institutions including the Anti-Defamation League, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and the No Hate Speech Movement — none of which, dare I say it, can be regarded as politically impartial.

As would be predicted, we are indeed seeing the application of censorship to videos that peddle in neither extremism nor incitement to violence. Of most concern is the censorship of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, which was deemed ‘unsuitable for all advertisers’ upon ‘manual review’ even though, as co-producer Daniel Adams explains: “We have no violence, no foul language, no political extremism, no hate or intolerance. Our program is simply a news analysis discussion from a libertarian and anti-war perspective”. Assange believes the channel was censored for “criticizing U.S. foreign policy”.

Others who have been censored include Diamond and Silk, two black women who support Trump; right-wing political commentator Paul Joseph Watson; left-wing comedian Jimmy Dore; and Reenactor Guy, a World War Two SS re-enactor.

Black Pigeon Speaks has had two videos limited: one in which, drawing in part on scholarly material, he argues female sexual emancipation leads to the collapse of the related civilisation; and one in which he documents sexual crimes perpetrated by migrants in Europe. Jared Taylor has had a video censored that examines racial differences in intelligence.

There are even suspicions that the YouTube account of Jordan Peterson — a professor, cultural critic, and advocate of free speech — was suspended for political reasons.

Left-wing political commentator Tim Black, who has likewise had videos limited, believes that the censorship “is a deliberate effort to stamp out independent political commentary, from the left or the right. […] It’s about pushing out diversity of thought and uplifting major news networks such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC”.

Whatever the reasons for censorship, if dissenting voices are not paid, then many will disappear — what Assange has termed ‘economic censorship’, namely “where it is simply not profitable to publish something”.

Claims of Political Censorship Within Google’s Workplace

Members of the right see Google’s forays into censorship as an attack by a far-left ‘progressive’ establishment, who they accuse of advocating political correctness so as to justify the stifling of political dissent. Conservative journalist Lauren Southern for example states: “I think it would be insane to suggest there’s not an active effort to censor conservative and independent views. Considering most of Silicon Valley participate in the censorship of alleged ‘hate speech’, diversity hiring and inclusivity committees. Their entire model is based around a far left outline. There’s no merit hiring, there’s no free speech and certainly is not an equal representation of political views at these companies”. Southern echoes thereby James Damore, who was fired by Google in response to his internally distributed memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” in which he explicitly refers to Google’s “politically correct monoculture” that ‘alienates conservative viewpoints’. In corroboration of Damore’s claims Breitbart reports: “Numerous individuals alleged to be members of Google’s management team [form] blacklists to impact the careers of colleagues with different political beliefs”.

Damore, who was fired on the basis of, as CEO Sundar Pichai put it, “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”; argued in his memo that employment policies geared towards the artificial equal representation of the sexes are “unfair, divisive, and bad for business”; arguing instead that the lack of representation in the tech industry is a natural product of innate biological differences, which realise different preferences and abilities. Putting aside those arguments according to which the differences between the sexes mainly arise from sociocultural forces in the form of gender-specific treatment; Damore’s argument that men and women do indeed think differently is scientifically uncontroversial, and Damore references scholarly material lead-authored by psychologist David Schmitt to support his argument. It is no small irony then that Damore was fired having stated in his memo: “My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology”. As Nathan Cofnas, a professor of philosophy at Lingnan University, states: “[T]he philosophy of [Socrates’] prosecutors — that morality-threatening scientific investigation should be prohibited — flourishes even today”.

Google — A Moral Project?

Google’s slogans certainly suggest, if we are to take them as having import beyond meaningless waffle, the promotion of ethical ideology; namely, the distinctly moral negative dialectics of the slogan “Don’t be evil”, replaced in 2015 by its moral-binary opposite “Do the right thing”. Indeed, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on record having declared a moral project: “We are trying to make people better people. Literally, give them better ideas; augmenting their experience. Think of it as ‘augmented humanity’”. Likewise, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in their 2004 Initial Public Offering Letter state: “We [believe] searching and organizing all the world’s information […] should be carried out by a company that is […] interested in the public good”; and that Google is “a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains”. Although we are consistently left without an explicit definition of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, except by perhaps reference to one another, the moral concepts take on a distinctly political — even bureaucratic — tone when Schmidt in his co-authored book The New Digital Age states: “When formulating policies, technology companies will, like governments, increasingly have to factor in all sorts of domestic and international dynamics, such as the political risk environment, diplomatic relationships between states, and the rules that govern citizens’ lives. The central truth of the technology industry — that technology is neutral but people are not — will periodically be lost amid all the noise. But our collective progress as citizens in the digital age will hinge on our not forgetting it”.

Nietzche would be rolling in his grave: “People have always wanted to ‘improve’ human beings; for the most part, this has been called morality”; and for Nietzche these so-called ‘moral improvements’ are actually concerned with the submission — or “domestication” — of man. Ultimately one can only agree with Nietzche that, minus an objective sense of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, the only value of morality is its political value; namely, that morality is “the best way of leading people around by the nose!” As Marx elucidated: “Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests”; and indeed, the utility and arbitrariness of the concepts of good and evil are not lost on Schmidt, who has stated: “Evil is what Sergey says is evil”.

With a string of ‘moral’ controversy following Google, — including accusations of aggressive tax avoidance for which it has been branded “devious, calculating, and unethical”; and fraudulently accessing Kenyan company Mocality’s database of businesses whilst pretending a partnership so as to request money from the listed businesses, — the notion of Google moralising brings to mind the advocating of Christian morality by Pope Alexander VI, who purchased the papal throne and begot the inspiration for the political treatise that is Machiavelli’s Prince. Indeed, a Machiavellian analogy is especially fitting granted the “ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley”. Assange has even interpreted Schmidt’s The New Digital Age as “a love song from Google to official Washington”; noting that the book’s “acknowledgements give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book”.

Google and US Intelligence Agencies

Google’s intimate relationship with the US government is no secret. In the context of 427 separate meetings held at the White House between Google staff and government representatives during the period of January 2009 and October 2015, — namely, during the Obama administration, — David Dayen of The Intercept reports: “No other public company approaches this degree of intimacy with government. According to an analysis of White House data, the Google lobbyist with the most White House visits, Johanna Shelton, visited 128 times, far more often than lead representatives of the other top-lobbying companies”. Indeed, of these meetings held between a total of 169 Google employees and 182 government officials, Google has explicitly declared that Internet censorship is a central topic; which should come as no surprise granted reports from at least 2012 detailing rapidly increasing demands by Western governments for the censorship of search results and YouTube videos.

Besides meetings held between Google and the US government, we also have during the years 2008 to 2015 55 transfers of Google staff into government roles, and 197 transfers of government staff into Google roles; be they “engineers, lawyers, scientists, communications specialists, executives, and even board members”. Google, Dayen concludes, “has achieved a kind of vertical integration with the government: a true public-private partnership”.

Perhaps less well known is that Google has had intimate ties with the US government since inception, and in particular the intelligence community. Indeed, investigative journalist Dr. Nafeez Ahmed confirms beyond doubt that Google was “enabled with a “significant” amount of seed-funding and oversight from the Pentagon: namely, the CIA, NSA, and DARPA”; the purpose of the funding being the production of “data management technologies to manage several terabytes to petabytes of data [including for] query processing, transaction management, metadata management, storage management, and data integration”. More pertinent to our discussion however is Ahmed’s further claim that: “the United States intelligence community [nurtured] Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information”; Google, which was indeed described in 2012 by then NSA chief General Keith Alexander as a “key member of the Defense Industrial Base”; with ‘Defense Industrial Base’ defined by the Department of Homeland Security as: “the worldwide industrial complex that enables research and development, as well as design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts, to meet U.S. military requirements.”

Ahmed refers in particular to the involvement of many of Google’s most senior executives within the Highlands Forum; the forum’s role according to official Pentagon records being to bring together “government, industry, and academic professionals from various fields” to support the US Department of Defense’s policies on ‘information operations’; and indeed a forum that, under the Pentagon contracted directorship of propaganda firm The Rendon Group, was intimately involved in the effort to bring about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Indeed, James Bamford exposed chief executive John Rendon’s role in arranging for the CIA the media output of Ahmed Chalabi’s misleading allegations of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Richard O’Neill, who founded The Highlands Forum in 1994 at the appointment of then defense secretary William Perry, had certainly identified as targets of information warfare — in a 1989 paper written for the US Naval War College titled ‘Toward a methodology for perception management’ — domestic populations and their political leadership so that they “perceive the cost [of war] as worth the effort”.

Google’s Politics and 21st-Century Statecraft

Outside the collection and organisation of information for US intelligence agencies, — such as Google providing the NSA search tools “capable of searching 15 million documents in twenty-four languages” for a sum of $2.07 million contracted on August 2003; or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s awarding to Google a $27 million no-bid contract for ‘geospatial visualisation’ Google Earth services in 2010, — Google is even said to carry out US foreign policy in the form of a political arm.

Google Ideas, now Jigsaw, is a self-described ‘think/do tank’ that was established in October 2010 when Jared Cohen accepted Schmidt’s invitation to its helm as an apparent ideological collaboration — Schmidt and Cohen who in November of that year co-authored an essay, published in the Council on Foreign Relations’ magazine Foreign Affairs, entitled ‘The Digital Disruption’; which “predicted technology would rewrite the relationship between states and their citizens in the 21st century”; and which subsequently realised the likewise co-authored The New Digital Age.

Prior to joining Google, Cohen served four years within the US State Department policy planning staff, and was twice rewarded the Secretary of State’s Meritorious Honor Award. According to Condoleeeza Rice’s book No Higher Honor, Cohen — who along with fellow staffer Alec Ross was described by the New York Times as the “public face of […] 21st-century statecraft” — was hired by then Director of Policy Planning, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Stephen Krasner for the purpose of “[integrating] social media into our diplomatic tool kit”. Rice continues: “That would pay off handsomely some years later, when Twitter and Facebook became accelerants of democratic change in the Middle East”; and indeed, in 2009 — under the leadership of Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, — Cohen emailed the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, to delay scheduled maintenance so as to assist the aborted uprising in Iran.

Cohen, who officially left the US State Department on 2nd September 2010, became an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations during the intervening period between employments; namely, on the 7th September 2010. The Council on Foreign Relations — of which Schmidt is likewise a life member — is a think tank that “promotes globalisation, free trade, reducing financial regulations on transnational corporations, and economic consolidation into regional blocs such as NAFTA or the European Union, and develops policy recommendations that reflect these goals”. The Council has been described by Harwood’s article ‘Ruling Class Journalists’ as “the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States”. As an example of the Council’s intimate and direct ties with the US government: in 1947 co-founder and then president of the Council Allen Dulles was appointed “to draft proposals for the shape and organization of what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency”; and since then “the directorship of the CIA has been in the hands of a Council leader or member more often than not”.

Cohen’s staff page at the Council on Foreign Relations declares his expertise as: “Terrorism; radicalization; […] Iran”; and, concordant with the aforementioned material Cohen co-authored with Schmidt, the “impact of connection technologies on 21st century statecraft”. The US Department of State describes 21st-century statecraft as the “complementing [of] traditional foreign policy tools with newly innovated and adapted instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the networks, technologies, and demographics of our interconnected world”. Cohen describes 21st-century statecraft in terms of: “bringing together nontraditional partners to do multistakeholder initiatives” — the axiomatic expression being a “think/do-tank”. An analogy for a think/do-tank is a venture capital firm: “A venture capital firm sees an interesting idea and puts money behind it; in [the think/do-tank that is the secretary of state’s Policy Planning staff,] we look for promising ideas and then put contacts and relationships behind it”. “The U.S. government”, Cohen continues, “is uniquely positioned to be the world’s greatest matchmaker”. The state, one might say, has been extended.

Indeed, the move by Cohen to Google would not look out of place in a manual on 21st-century statecraft. Cohen is for example confirmed in a collection of Stratfor emails published by Wikileaks to have planned a trip in March 2011 to engage Iranians at their border as part of Google Ideas project on ‘repressive societies’; on which Stratfor’s vice president of intelligence, and former State Department security official, Fred Burton commented: “Google is getting [White House] and State [Department] support and air cover. [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US [government] can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag”.

Burton likewise highlights Cohen’s role in founding, — formerly the Alliance for Youth Movement, — a “site created to help online organization of groups and individuals to move democracy in stubborn nations [and funded] through public-private partnerships”. public sponsor is the US State Department; and also receives funding from Google, and the Gen Next Foundation of which Cohen is also an executive member. Gen Next is self-described as: an “exclusive membership organization and platform for successful individuals” to instigate social change using venture capital funding, especially granted “the political process [is] often too slow or incremental to meet [social challenges]”. The Gen Next website wryly adds: “private sector and non-profit foundation support avoids some of the potential perceived conflicts of interest faced by initiatives funded by governments”. Assange notes: “In 2012 became a division of “Advancing Human Rights,” a new NGO set up by Robert L. Bernstein after he resigned from Human Rights Watch […] because he felt it should not cover Israeli and US human rights abuses”.

Reminiscent of Cohen’s description of 21st-century statecraft, and of Cohen’s activities mentioned above, Slaughter — Cohen’s boss during his last years within the US State Department — stated in 2011: “If you look at the role that companies are playing in the world […] these are corporations that have to be part of the solutions of most of the top problems that are on the [US] secretary of state and president’s list”; and indeed likened “Google Ideas to a government policy unit”. Slaughter, who finished her tenure with the state department in January 2011, and who is likewise a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was appointed the President and CEO of the New America Foundation in 2013; on which she comments: “[Schmidt is] a personal friend of mine from other circles [and] played an important role in convincing me to take the CEO job at New America”. Schmidt has been on the board of the New America Foundation since 1999, chairing the think tank from 2008 until 2016. As of 2013, the top donors — giving over $1 million each — include Eric and Wendy Schmidt, and the US State Department.

Recently Slaughter has been accused of the expulsion of Barry Lynn and his 10-person anti-monopoly advocating ‘Open Markets Initiative’ from the New America Foundation for the purpose of appeasing Eric Schmidt after Lynn “posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google”. Kenneth Vogel reports: “Google officials — including […] Eric Schmidt — had complained about Open Markets multiple times”. Slaughter puts the events into perspective as follows: “Nothing we say is going to convince the many people who want to believe a David versus Goliath story of Barry Lynn versus big bad Google. On the contrary, Barry’s new organization and campaign against Google is the opening salvo of one group of Democrats versus another group of Democrats in the run-up to the 2020 election, at a time when I personally think the country faces far greater challenges of racism, violence, a broken political system, and geographic and partisan divisions so great that we are losing any common sense of what we stand and strive for as a country.” Apparently Democrat solidarity with the power of Google, presented here as a Democrat faction, will be instrumental to a Democrat win in 2020 — a Democrat win presented as the solution to America’s woes, which are no doubt being related to the victory of Donald Trump. For Slaughter then, Google serves a political function.

Google’s Democrat leanings are certainly no secret: in 2012, employees of Google donated $808,749 to Obama’s presidential campaign, but only $39,539 to Romney; whilst in 2016, employees of Google (now Alphabet) donated $1,588,471 to Clinton’s presidential campaign, but only $22,564 to Trump. Indeed, the Podesta emails released by Wikileaks show that Schmidt — who was photographed at Hillary Clinton’s Election Night party wearing a badge identifying him as member of her staff — was interested in being Hillary Clinton’s “head outside advisor”; which saw him funding startup ‘The Groundwork’ “to ensure that Clinton [had] the engineering talent needed to win the election” — Clinton who had “hired Stephanie Hannon, Google’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, to [be her chief technology officer for the campaign]”.

Most concerning however are accusations, quite convincing, that Google manipulated its search results to favourDemocrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — Google that, as of April 2017, commands no less than 77.43% of “global marketing share percentage, in terms of the use of Search Engines”. Dr. Robert Epstein — Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology — in research he performed with eight others, concluded: “[It] seems reasonable to conjecture that Google employees manually suppress negative search suggestions relating to Clinton in order to reduce the number of searches people conduct that will expose them to anti-Clinton content”; adding: “for the record, I have chosen to publish this article through Sputnik News because Sputnik agreed to publish it in unedited form in order to preserve the article’s accuracy.”

Perhaps it is the globalist ideological values of the Democrat party that best explain Google’s support. As University of Amsterdam social scientist Ewald Engelen argues: “the old paradigm of a left arguing for strong government intervention and a right preferring marketing solutions to social problems has been replaced” by a “dominant dichotomy [of] globalism versus nationalism”. We can certainly conjecture Schmidt to be ‘pro-globalist’, if only for the statement he made in relation to Trump’s immigration orders: “These prejudicial actions are discriminatory and anti-globalisation, and I did everything I could to cause a different outcome”. Indeed, a globalist interpretation of Democrat support would be consistent with Der Spiegel’s report that Google — an American company — is determining internationally, in this case to Germany in the run-up to their election, the dissemination of political content: “Google has refused for more than a week to place certain ads for a controversial anti-Merkel website created by the Alternative for Germany [forcing the] right-wing [nationalist] party [to spend] its budget [on] Facebook instead”.

The Big Picture

Undoubtedly Google has become a highly politicised body; and even, perhaps, a literal extension of the state. Indeed, only recently — within the context of a mainstream media preoccupied with questionable allegations concerning significant Russian involvement in promoting Donald Trump’s victory — did YouTube expel news network “[Russia Today from their] premium advertising service without any prior notice”; even though Russia Today was “accredited to an official status of the most watched TV news network on YouTube”.

Google’s integration with the state is not nevertheless an isolated case; but rather, as per the notion of ‘21st-century statecraft’, symbolic of a greater trend of establishing private-public relationships for the purpose of projecting American interests globally. As Council on Foreign Relations member and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman acknowledged — recognising simultaneously the ‘new’ left-right globalist-nationalist dichotomy — in 1999: “we [in the US] are the biggest beneficiaries and drivers of [globalization. Indeed,] we’re nothing without the rest of the world, which is why managing globalization is a role from which America dare not shrink. […] The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” Indeed, Friedman’s argument that the US should encourage countries “not [politically] up to the demands of the global system [– like Thailand, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil –] to become not just emerging markets but also “emerging societies” […] with real regulatory and democratic institutions” is reminiscent of Dr. Thomas Barnett; who likewise argues, in his 2004 book The Pentagon’s New Map, that it is the United States’ role to spread both the economic and cultural “rule-set” of globalisation characteristic of the West. Barnett — Highlands Forum delegate, and former assistant for strategic futures in the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation from 2001 to 2003 — writes: “America as global cop creates security. Security creates common rules. Rules attract foreign investment. Investment creates infrastructure. Infrastructure creates access to natural resources. Resources create economic growth. Growth creates stability. Stability creates markets. And once you’re a growing, stable part of the global market, you’re part of the Core. Mission accomplished.”