Why is Google Censoring Search Results to Nix Warnings Just Like Ones Issued by a UK Regulator?

Yves here. One of the things on our very long list of important issues we’d like to write about is the way Google, an unregulated information-screener, can dictate companies’ business models and keep information out of the public eye by how they handle search queries. Richard Smith gives an example below.

By Richard Smith

Dear google.co.uk,

1. On 31st May 2013, Beale and Company LLP, an English law firm much better known for its expertise in building and construction matters than its flair for reputation management,  submitted a legal complaint to Google  about certain blog posts at redd-monitor concerning the Dubai firm, Advanced Global Trading. The effect can be seen if one Googles (for instance) “redd-monitor ian hainey” at google.co.uk: the results look like this. At google.de, by contrast, the results look like this.
2. Advanced Global Trading lost its trading licence on 4th June 2013.
3. Advanced Global Treading is a firm associated with Carbon Neutral Investments Limited. Here is a web archive from Carbon Neutral Investments’ web site documenting that association.
4. On the 2nd July, the UK’s financial regulator, the FCA, issued this warning about firms associated with Carbon Neutral Investments:

Beware when an investment involves Carbon Neutral Investments or Gemmax Solutions

We are concerned about investments involving Carbon Neutral Investments and Gemmax Solutions. Find out more and how to protect yourself from unauthorised firms.

Several unauthorised firms promoting and selling carbon credits are telling investors that Carbon Neutral Investments Limited (CNI) or Gemmax Solutions, firms authorised by us, will handle the money in their investment.

We believe this is done to suggest investors will be protected as though they are dealing with an authorised firm. But this is not correct.

Investing in carbon credits

We continue to receive many reports from people who have been approached by firms promoting and selling carbon credits in the UK.

These reports usually include the investor stating that they have lost money on the investment by not being able to sell, or at least get a competitive rate, when trading the carbon credits.

5. Until 4th June 2013, when it lost its licence to trade in Dubai, Advanced Global Trading engaged in the selling of carbon credits to investors.
6. On the 13th September, 2013, the FCA, the UK’s financial regulator, issued a further warning about the sale of carbon credits to investors:

Carbon credit trading

Find out how carbon credit trading works, why we think you should avoid investing in carbon credits and related markets, and how to protect yourself from what is most likely a scam.

A carbon credit is a certificate or permit which represents the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) and they can be traded for money.

However, many investors have told us they are not able to sell or trade the carbon credits they have bought. None of these investors reported making a profit.

This supports our view that there is not a viable secondary market for ordinary investors to sell or trade carbon credits, despite claims and promises made by many firms, advisers and brokers promoting and selling them as an investment.

We have also received reports that an increasing number of firms are using dubious, high-pressure sales tactics to sell carbon credits to investors.

How it works

Investors are usually called out of the blue by salespeople promoting carbon credits, but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar or exhibition.

You may be offered carbon credit certificates, voluntary emission reductions (VERs), certified emission reductions (CERs) or an opportunity to invest directly in a ’green‘ scheme or project that generates carbon credits as a return on investment.

Carbon credits and VERs certificates are often labelled as ’certified‘, but this certification is voluntary and involves a wide range of bodies and different quality standards that are not recognised by any UK compensation scheme.

The caller may claim carbon credits are ‘the new big thing’ in commodity trading, industries now have to off-set their emissions, the government is focusing on green developments or that it is a growing market.

But we have seen that investors are not making any money as they cannot sell or trade their carbon credits.

7. The 31st May complaint is reproduced below. You will see that the allegations made both in the posts, and especially by the commenters, are somewhat more colourful than, but entirely consistent with, and supported by, the FCA’s warnings.

8. This blog would like to know whether, on the basis of the information provided here, you intend to restore redd-monitor’s blog post excerpts to google.co.uk’s search results, or alternatively, remove the warnings made by the UK’s financial regulator from google.co.uk’s search results, since, by construction, they are just as defamatory as anything redd-monitor has published.

9. This blog offers a gentle hint: the second choice would be an idiotic mistake.

Update 10/11/2013: further reading, very relevant for google.co.uk, and for Beale and Co Solictors LLP, on the Defamation Act which went into UK law on 25th April 2013

The Defamation Act of 2013 increases protections for individuals and companies including broadcasters and journalists. The act bars cases brought against individuals who live outside the United Kingdom, which were a major source of “libel tourism” in the UK, the Guardian reported.

Appendix: the legal complaint

Defamation Legal Complaint to Google

 

May 31, 2013

Sender Information:
BEALE AND COMPANY SOLICITORS LLP
Sent by:GB

Recipient Information:

Google, Inc. [Websearch]

Mountain View, CA, 94043, USA

Sent via: online form: Other
Re: Infringement Notification via Websearch Complaint

Google Form: Report other legal removal issue

Name: [redacted]
Company name: BEALE AND COMPANY SOLICITORS LLP
If applicable, include the name of the company or organization whose legal rights you represent (e.g. if you are legal agent, etc.)
ADVANCED GLOBAL TRADING

Allegedy Infringing Material
http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/09/advanced-global-trading-another-boiler-room-scam-or-a-ponzi-scheme-or-both/

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/21/response-from-advanced-global-trading-we-can-only-hope-that-you-amend-the-title-and-the-last-paragraph-of-your-article/

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/24/some-questions-for-charles-stephenson-ceo-of-advanced-global-trading/

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/27/another-response-from-advanced-global-trading-we-see-no-utility-for-our-clients-or-stakeholders-in-corresponding-with-you-again/
Please explain in detail why you believe the content on the above URLs is unlawful, citing specific provisions of law wherever possible. *
In accordance with English law, we are
instructed that the articles and/or comments referred to in this report
contain defamatory content. Our client has confirmed to us that (a) the
comments are defamatory (b) they are untrue and (c) that we are authorised
to make this report.

(1) First Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/09/advanced-global-trading-another-boiler-room-scam-or-a-ponzi-scheme-or-both/

1.1 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The article’s author seeks to use innuendo by asking the question whether
Advanced Global Trading is an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it operates an illegal Ponzi scheme.

1.2 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The article’s author seeks to use innuendo by asking the question whether
Advanced Global Trading is an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it operates an illegal Ponzi scheme.

1.3 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “Mark Smith” alleges that Advanced Global Trading’s business is
a scam, it is an illegal boiler room company and that it pays for “likes”
on Facebook.

Advanced Global Trading denies all of the allegations.

1.4 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “AGT GAME OVER” alleges that Advanced Global Trading has created
a false market based on an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it operates an illegal Ponzi scheme.

1.5 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “Anon Anon” alleges that clients are lied to and not returned
their funds and that Advanced Global Trading is conducting criminal
activity which should be reported to Interpol.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it lies its clients or that it conducts
criminal activity.

1.6 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “Paul D” uses innuendo to suggest that Advanced Global Trading’s
business practises are unlawful.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it conducts its business in an unlawful
manner.

1.7 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “M Schmidt” alleges that Advanced Global Trading’s business is
an illegal boiler room company, that it fabricates evidence to clients and
that it is operated by criminals.

Advanced Global Trading denies all of the allegations.

1.8 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “P Edwards @london” alleges that Advanced Global Trading’s
business is an illegal boiler room company and that one of its directors
uses different names to hide his illegality.

Advanced Global Trading denies all of the allegations.

1.9 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “sajd” alleges that Advanced Global Trading’s business is a scam.

Advanced Global Trading denies the allegation.

1.10 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster “HG” alleges that criminals run Advanced Global Trading.

Advanced Global Trading denies the allegation.

(2) Second Article

2.1 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The article’s author seeks to use innuendo by asking the question whether
Advanced Global Trading is an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it operates an illegal Ponzi scheme.

(3) Third Article

3.1 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The article’s author seeks to use innuendo by suggesting that Advanced
Global Trading might be conducting fraud.

Advanced Global Trading denies that it commits fraud.

(4) Fourth Article

4.1 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster seeks to use innuendo by suggesting that no lawyer would accept
instructions from Advanced Global Trading because of their activities.

Advanced Global Trading denies the allegation.

(5) Fifth Article

5.1 The words used seek to lower Advanced Global Trading in the estimation
of right-thinking members of society generally.

The poster states that the directors of Advanced Global Trading are
criminals.

Advanced Global Trading denies the allegation.
legalother_quote_commonwealth: (1) First Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/09/advanced-global-trading-another-boiler-room-scam-or-a-ponzi-scheme-or-both/

1.1 “Advanced Global Trading: Another boiler room scam? Or a Ponzi scheme?
Or both?”

1.2 “The US Securities and Exchange Commission describes a Ponzi scheme as
follows . . .”

1.3 “I used to work at AGT, the whole business is a complete and utter
scam! There are over 100 clients unable to get there initial investment
back. There are no facts to the eveidence they sell. They inflate the price
of there own stock. It is a true boiler room company . . . The reason FB
has so many likes is because they hire (even though they say on the website
he’s a director Ian Hainey for his Social media skills . . . this business
must close, it is corrupt, people are losing money.”

1.4 “Starting to see where this is going? AGT has a Wikipedia page -it’s
here and astonishing!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponzi_scheme . . .
They have created a make believe market based on the Ponzi Scheme above!
http://carbontradexchange.com/products/verified-emission-reduction-vers
This is misleading, this is unlawful and immoral . . .”

1.5 “As a former high level executive with the company I can verify all
comments above – Clients are promised extremely fast liquidation periods
(48 hours – 1 week) as one of the many ‘sales’ tools to hook prospective
investors however when liquidation request is made, money never
materializes. Some investors have been waiting well over 20 weeks now and
STILL have not received their money back! And the worst part about it is
the laws of the UAE enable AGT to continue running operations as usual.
They are allowed to continue accepting new money from clients without
having to return any and the only viable legal route is a civil case which
will take well over a year with minimal probability of winning solely for
the fact they hide behind a very vague terms and conditions which is all
the courts look at, and AGT management knows this. Ever wonder why the
England offices closed?? Because authorities there were catching on and
something like this would not fly as easily in such a country as it does in
UAE where their head office (and only office!) is located. Interpol is
required in this case immediately.”

1.6 “Finally there is a platform to voice my concerns about this bogus
company. I get called every 3-4 months with someone trying to sell me these
credits. The sales people are so pushy its scary. I went to there offices
and met with the sales guys. Complete rogue traders. I cannot believe this
company is still able to trade. Dubai Authorities should look into this
immediately.”

1.7 “Thank you Chris for shedding some spot light on this unmoral
organisation! My brother was approached via a cold call to invest into this
business and came to me for advice. I spoke to some friends who had also
been cold called and ran a mile away from this investment once they got
chance to meet the boiler room sales people that you meet at the smoke and
mirrors office at Emaar Square. They play on some idelogical make believe
supply and Demand market for trading permits quoting a lack of green
projects vs the demand for offsetting. It’s utter fabrication . . . UAE
Authorities have to do something about this and urgently, its an unsavory
organisation ran by modern day thief’s!”

1.8 “i believe Stephenson has previously been involved in major boiler
rooms operations in other countries. i know he has used other surnames in
the past.

what has he got to hide?”

1.9 “ihave also invested in this scam company . . .”

1.10 “. . . this company is a group of professional criminals”

(2) Second Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/21/response-from-advanced-global-trading-we-can-only-hope-that-you-amend-the-title-and-the-last-paragraph-of-your-article/

2.1 “Wouldn’t you agree that one possible explanation for this is that AGT
is running a Ponzi scheme?”

(3) Third Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/24/some-questions-for-charles-stephenson-ceo-of-advanced-global-trading/

3.1 “I think everyone who has invested in this company may well be the
victims of a fraud. I think you need to contact the police. Action Fraud
may be able to help, on the grounds that Charles Stephenson is a British
citizen and the company was at one time registered in the UK. Please
contact the police and Action Fraud (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by
ringing them up: 0300 123 2040).”

(4) Fourth Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/27/another-response-from-advanced-global-trading-we-see-no-utility-for-our-clients-or-stakeholders-in-corresponding-with-you-again/

4.1 “NO LAWYER will touch them because of the history of the director or
these alleged shadow directors.”

(5) Fifth Article

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/27/another-response-from-advanced-global-trading-we-see-no-utility-for-our-clients-or-stakeholders-in-corresponding-with-you-again/

5.1 “These guys are cowards, criminals and are now seriously running scared
from the comments i’m hearing from within.”

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34 comments

  1. s spade

    Does anyone know what this post is about? I tried reading it twice and gave up. Must be really important, to somebody.

    1. Yves Smith

      Wow, your reading comprehension is that poor? You are actually admitting that? That suggests you are a perfect target for the sort of scams Richard Smith has been documenting.

      1. Min

        Well, I just skimmed the post, and I could not tell what it was about. That tells me that it is poorly organized. I should be able to skim it and get enough of an idea about it that I know whether I want to read more closely or not.

    2. participant-observer-observed

      Well, one thing you have to know for the post to have significance is that the UK has unique libel laws compared to the USA, for example, and therefore parties and their lawyers will more easily find compelling reasons for filing anti-defamation cases.

      Another fact that makes this story significant is recent reports of Google’s pretend “offense” at its role as an active agent of the US gov’t, for example.

      (See yesterday’s story about Google at the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/04/seric-schmidt-nsa-spying-data-centres-outrageous, and the link to remarks about Google by J Assange supplied in the comments, http://cryptome.org/2013/08/assange-google-nsa.htm)

      Kerry was smoozhing with the Saudis yesterday, Dubai’s neighbor; it could be interesting to learn how much time Eric Schmidt and/or his ex girlfriend Lisa Shields spend hanging around the Arabian peninsula too. How much any of this has to do with preventing Syrian/Middle East/West Asia conflicts becoming WWIII, inciting gas speculators/Goldman/TBTFs et al, are further questions we can ask ourselves, among others.

      It is valid to request significance; you are on a sane track to question it.

      1. Nathanael

        Oh, Google execs actually are offended.

        Never make the “conspiracy theorist” mistake of assuming that everyone in the power elite is working together. The history of the world tells us that they’re usually bitter enemies of each other.

    3. Teejay

      To: S Spade
      Google Co. UK (afraid of getting sued for defamation) is censoring from search results of Advanced Global Trading (AGT) a warning from the UK regulator(FCA)that AGT is running a ponzi scheme. A blogger redd-monitor cleverly up loaded the FCA warning so that when AGT is “googled” up comes the warning as well.
      Richard Smith has sent an open letter to Google Co. UK
      saying WTF. OK he didn’t quit say it that way. He concluded with:
      8. This blog would like to know whether, on the basis of the information provided here, you intend to restore redd-monitor’s blog post excerpts to google.co.uk’s search results, or alternatively, remove the warnings made by the UK’s financial regulator from google.co.uk’s search results, since, by construction, they are just as defamatory as anything redd-monitor has published.

      9. This blog offers a gentle hint: the second choice would be an idiotic mistake.
      Smith included the legal defamation complaint from AGT legal counsel in an appendix.

      1. s spade

        Thanks. It’s really easier to understand when you bother to explain it. Of course, it’s easier to just throw stuff up on the wall and whine.

    4. Mcmike

      I sympathize with spade, to the extent that the cited blog entry (letter?) itself was not particularly well written, and the inclusion of the complaint rendered the thing unreadable on a smartphone. (Oh my god, I have been infected with modern reading habits).

      I can see how a reader who was not already following NC’s pursuit of this story might be left behind; since this particular entry requires a certain amount of prerequite familiarity with the story.

      Yves introductory transition also, perhaps, was not her best. At least given the above. Despite tracking NC’s coverage, and even after re-reading the letter a couple times, I am still left wondering what exactly they are trying to prove. (And I confess only skimming the complaint, but I do feel as if I am joining an avant garde play already in progress).

      Sorry Yves, I appreciate what you do. Perhaps being on the leading edge of this story, you are a bit out in front of some readers? This one is fairly “inside baseball.”

  2. JL Furtif

    I knew Youtube removes content when one complains about copyright infringement. But Google removing search results?

    1. Richard Smith Post author

      That isn’t quite what happens with search. The usual Google search result will include some text from the web page that Google has found. The ‘censored’ results just give the web page and no excerpt.

      That way, for one thing, Google itself feels less likely be accused of republishing some defamation.

      Of course, the odd-looking results can make those links more conspicuous, rather than less.

      This is Google trying to navigate ever changing waters: free speech vs defamation, in multiple jurisdictions.

      1. Yves Smith

        The point is that it does it in a knee-jerk manner. Had Google done even a cursory search of its own, it would have seen the FCA notices. But that would be work, it can’t be bothered.

        This might not be so bad if there was a way for the affected sites to reach Google and say (not quite so directly) “You are being pushed around by a scammer, even the British regulators are saying bad things about these dudes, and this material is just a rehash of that.” But not only can you not get a live person at Google, but you can’t even find a place on their site or a real process to reach someone to get this sort of thing resolved.

          1. skippy

            Per link above see: Michael Roberts :

            04 Nov 2013 11:01:00pm

            I have published a video with my theory on why Google ranks garbage results high in its search results for a person’s name:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMTCCT_NtBk

            Furthermore, a flawed USA law is what allows Google to get away with it and project the trashy results globally. I published a 4 minute video here explaining:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hjdopsyXOY

            Respectfully submitted:
            Michael Roberts
            Brisbane Asutralia
            Internet Victim’s Advocate, Forensic Analyst and Litigation Support Consultant
            Licensed Private Investigator # 3589109
            Journalist # A 10450 LAPC
            http://www.rexxfield.com

            Section 230C Communications Decency Act.

            Published on Jul 4, 2012

            Please sign this petition to the US Congress to Change this flawed law:

            https://www.change.org/petitions/the-

            State Sponsored Cyber Terrorism: Section 230C of the Communications Decency Act is a failed experiment in Internet industry self-regulation. Silicon valley’s faceless giants turn a blind eye to the social, financial and emotional paralysis that befalls victims of internet harassment and defamation.

            skippy… personally I would not use the terminology – failed – law. The people what write this stuff are not morons….

  3. Mcmike

    Google has become unusable. It not only crowds out legitimate results with paid placements, but it obviously represses some results entirely. Google is not an impartial automatic search, it imposes increasingly heavy judgements on results, mainly commercially motivated, but clearly politically motivated too. Google of course controls youtube too.

    Facebook follows a similar mindset/model. Twitter cannot be far behind.

    The coopting of the internet is essentially complete after herding everyone to these couple places. The authorities have of course noticed too.

    1. MRW

      Mcmike is correct. We have not had accurate searches since Feb 2011 when Google changed its algorithm. If you want something more, use DuckDuckGo or if you use a Mac, use DEVONAgent, which has a learning curve but it can dig up stuff you never knew existed. [There is actually a setting for such deep search that it can take all night, but you will be shocked!] The problem with DEVONAgent is that it doesn’t use a lot of Safari conventions and is therefore a pain in the ass.

      The only thing you are doing using Google to search these days is rounding out their advertising profile on you for them, monetizing yourself like an idiot. They are a piece of shit organization. The Google Prez is so out to lunch he’s muffling comments about NSA that “if it’s true” NSA is siphoning off his pipes, then isn’t that horrible. WHICH MEANS THE GUY DOESN’T KNOW. What manufacturing Prez doesn’t know someone has put a hammer in the conveyor belt, or rerouted the shipping routes?

      1. just me

        I have wondered about Naked Capitalism’s Google search box. I left a late comment on the site redesign post wondering if there’s an alternative: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/10/nc-fundraiser-coming-soon-plus-see-alpha-version-of-our-site-redesign.html#comment-1481569

        The other day I wanted to find a past NC story. I searched “Sandy Harry Shearer” in the search box – the most obvious words I could recall. It did not find the story at all, though did give some other confusing fluff. Then I went outside to duckduckgo and searched the same thing with “site: nakedcapitalism.com” added. The story I was looking for was the top result: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/harry-shearer-preventing-another-sandy-the-lessons-new-orleans-can-teach-new-jersey.html

        Is it just me? Does anyone else want to try this test and report back?

    2. ChrisCairns

      Evil American company. Used to be my go to place when I wanted something, but all the paid ads finally get to you. My reading of NC has helped me to realise that the company just wants my money rather than to help me find useful stuff. Using DuckDuck now until it shows its true colors…

      1. participant-observer-observed

        Meanwhile, innovation goes on life support!

        One day (if we are lucky) we could look back on these dark days as the inspiration for expressions of genius that will transcend it and the small minded short sighted “technology giants” of today will be remembered as tricky-dick Nixons.
        “http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/05/dark-mail/”

        “Ladar Levison, founder of the now shuttered secure email provider Lavabit, has taken to Kickstarter to resurrect the concept of secure email in a new, open source form, called the project Dark Mail initiative. A not-for-profit organisation called the Dark Mail Alliance, with Lavabit …”

  4. Drew

    I would guess the reason Google has reacted so quickly and removed the content in response to a defamation lawsuit is because of the potential legal costs of not removing the content.

    In the UK the party accused of defamation bears the burden of proof to show that his/her statements are in fact true.

    So, in the UK this legal notice feels akin to a DMCA takedown notice in the US. Completely different legal issues–I know. But the potential cost of not taking down content is so much greater than any cost that might be incurred by taking down the content erroneously that the lawyers advised compliance.

    Is my theory way off base?

  5. Banger

    Google is fast becoming a real player in world politics as one would expect. Organization grow in power if they can in part to protect themselves from other predators and in part because that is how life functions. I consider large corporations as virtual life-forms.

    What makes this situation unique is that Google is a sort of Baron of Information–they mediate what we see and here much like the mainstream media who obviously skew information for their own political ends.

    This story has resonance, I believe, because it shows that the old anarchic/libertarian ideals of the internet as “neutral” grounds is, like the “free-market” a myth. The need to manipulate information always, always trumps any idea of free speech, which like free markets does not and cannot exist.

    I’m not outraged in any way by this trend but think this is obviously a good policy from Google’s POV. What’s good for Google, of course, has nothing whatever to do with what is good for the public–that good is up for the public to determine.

    1. McMike

      As I mention above, Facebook does it too. Even more shamelessly. FB literally refuses to show you all the updates from your friends and liked businesses. They claim (with straight face we presume) that they are doing this for your own good – to protect you from having to wade through too many entries. But there is literally no seting that allows you to decide what you see with 100% consistency. It is obviously in fact an effort to preserve space for paid placements, and to punish businesses with FB pages that have not paid for placements.

      Internet simulacra.
      – It started with open information and people immersing themselves in all of it and 100% user controlled; and open architecture controlled by public and public-minded organizations.
      – Then: it segregated into narrow tribes, albeit still fairly open; commercial control emerges.
      – Then: certain tribes gained dominance and started mediating user access and control; and the architecture became more restricted.
      – Now we are moving to stage four simulacra: a (literally) handful of providers decides what you see and when, and alternatives are snuffed out or literally shut down; and the architecture is nearly under single (effectively offical) control.

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    Net neutrality has more than just Google to worry about today,
    Net neutrality is a dead man walking

    Or if you prefer to see the URL,
    http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/11/so-the-internets-about-to-lose-its-net-neutrality/

    If I’ve understood correctly, and that is far from certain, Google has now invested a considerable chunk of money in the physical backbone of the internet, so one would assume it has crossed the “do no harm” tracks entirely and would be pretty much in favor of being able to control and manage people’s access to sites legally in any manner it chooses.

    1. Mcmike

      (a) Google’s business model is based on monetizing user traffic by driving users to paid features and forcing them to receive paid messages.

      (b) In that context, unpaid traffic is not only annoying and a distraction to Google, but it reduces their potential total revenue and “freeloads” by piggybacking on their cost structures.

      (c) Much of that unpaid traffic tends towards content that is threatening to elites, government, the status quo, and Google’s business model itself. Making it less attractive strategically as well as economically.

      (d) Official surveillance obsession has led to official subsidy and encouragement of centralized control of the internet by like-minded or compliant providers.

      (e) Centralization and official control of the internet has led to legitimization of such concepts as social media filtering and kill switches for security purposes. Opening the door to the legitimization of censorship and access control for all purposes.

      (f) In this era of brazen restraint of trade, repression of free speech, and privatization of public assets, there are no bars to amassing monopoly control, and great rewards.

      (g) Cheap federal money policy and low corporate tax regimes have created the opportunity for inexpensive heavy investment by corporations in terms or hoarding hard assets and solidifying market domination on the cheap.

      Do the math. Not only is net neutrality dead; this marks the culmination of privatization of the internet.

      Mark my words, the herding of independent activity to cloud based providers and social media sites will soon be proven to be a huge mistake – a sick irony that it was “sold” as enhancing freedom and choice, when in fact it is akin to sheep being encircled by dogs into the pen outside the killing floor.

      1. just me

        From “Why I Left Google” by James Whittaker:

        http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jw_on_tech/archive/2012/03/13/why-i-left-google.aspx

        The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

        Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn’t feel like one. Google was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers.

        […]

        It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook… Like the proverbial hare confident enough in its lead to risk a brief nap, Google awoke from its social dreaming to find its front runner status in ads threatened.

        […]

        Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong. Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+. It was an ominous name invoking the feeling that Google alone wasn’t enough. Search had to be social. Android had to be social. You Tube, once joyous in their independence, had to be … well, you get the point. Even worse was that innovation had to be social. Ideas that failed to put Google+ at the center of the universe were a distraction.

        […]

        As it turned out, sharing was not broken. Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn’t part of it… Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room.

        Google+ and me, we were simply never meant to be. Truth is I’ve never been much on advertising. I don’t click on ads. When Gmail displays ads based on things I type into my email message it creeps me out. I don’t want my search results to contain the rants of Google+ posters (or Facebook’s or Twitter’s for that matter). When I search for “London pub walks” I want better than the sponsored suggestion to “Buy a London pub walk at Wal-Mart.”

        1. McMike

          Great link, thanks.

          As I said in a post above, we are unfortunately in the fourth stage of internet simulacra. Google is in perhaps the third stage (it still at least pretends to be a search engine, even if it no longer functions as one).

    1. Clive

      Can’t remember now from school history if Guy Fawkes was one of the good guys or the bad guys in trying to blow up parliament but hey, enjoy the fireworks !

      1. fajensen

        My Scottish colleagues used to say that “down south” they celebrated the prevention of a terrorist atrocity, while “up north” they all celebrated the fresh initiative …

    2. Dan Kervick

      He is completely de-contextualized in the movie that seems to have captured the attention of so many people: presented as just some random freedom fighter who wanted to blow up the king.

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