The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Google is not evil for this

One of the things I’ve come to dislike about the blogosphere — not that we don’t do this outside of blogs all the time as well — is that there’s an assumption that any content that sounds like it might go against one’s political opinions isn’t just wrong in and of itself, the act of saying it at all is wrong.

In one of the latest examples, a writer for Google’s Health Advertising Blog wrote that the healthcare industry could counter Michael Moore’s Sicko, an indictment of healthcare practices in the U.S., by buying search-related ads to get their side of the argument out.

Immediate pandemonium. How dare Google take a position that seems like it might be against this great new film? Is Google evil? (Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” thereby subjecting us all to a lot of bad puns and headlines over the years.)

Google clarified that they didn’t have an official position, and that it was just one of their employees writing in a blog. That’s a fairly disingenuous statement, since it’s a corporate blog, but whatever. They’re bowing to pressure.

My question is, why the turmoil? I read about this story in a lot of blogs over the past week, and the only thing I could think is that it must have been a really slow day. Google is attempting to sell ads? Ads associated with an industry we don’t agree with? Oh my gosh, it’s like they were a corporation or something!

I saw a lot of pontificating about the idea that Google should be neutral, but let’s face it…In our world “Neutral” means “Tacitly Agrees.” And that’s only going to get worse. You think there isn’t going to be any controversy as 2008 approaches over election-related search results and ads?

“Don’t Be Evil” is a cool motto, but maybe they need to nail their own 95 theses to their search results pages to let everyone know what they consider evil? 😐

Oh, by the way, I haven’t seen Sicko online yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing it. My mom’s worked in it for years at the low level, and I’ve had my own interesting experiences with large-scale managed care, so it should be interesting. Do I expect equal time for everyone in the system? No. Am I likely to agree with Michael Moore on everything? Hasn’t happened yet. Does that make him evil? No. Just kind of loud and enthusiastic. πŸ™‚

2 Comments

  1. Both my husband and I own Google stock and find it highly offensive that Google would take a position like this especially when it is so against the good of the American people. Will I write Google. Yes. Should this come up at a stock holder meeting – yes. Google should be neutral at worse on such an important subject. So many people are suffering under our system. Two of my clients committed suicide since they could not afford their treatments and one died since she had to work all through it to keep her insurance. If it is just an employee, he should post it on his personal site. Sue Azia

  2. It’s your right and responsibility as a stockholder to express your views on how the corporation is being run. Heck, there are companies out there that make it their entire corporate mission to be socially responsible while making money. (Is Working Assets still around? I stopped getting mail from them when I left college.) There isn’t much that keeps the stockholders from doing the same with Google.

    But, reading the entry, it looks to me like a sales pitch for the kind of advertising that is already available at Google. Whether or not Lauren Turner writes about it doesn’t mean anything in terms of whether the healthcare industry can buy issue-oriented ads on Google. She just wrote what was already being said off-blog. Is that Google taking a favorable position towards the healthcare industry? No, that’s Google taking a position that they like money, partially for the stockholders, and no one in charge has told them to do otherwise.

    Like I said, it sounds more sales-y than bloggy, but I don’t see a position being stated other than “Spend your money here!”

    (True, she does refer to “isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst” and portraying “the industry as money and marketing driven,” but that’s a Michael Moore film in a nutshell. He does it effectively, and that’s why it works. That’s not a review; that’s a genre.)

    Here’s a suggestion for the stockholder meeting: I think it’s generally agreed that the U.S. healthcare system needs some sort of reform. Google has a lot of money. Perhaps Google could earmark a donation to the Google Foundation to further that sort of policy research? They already have a public health mission.

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