Internet Censorship, Google Style anti-Google campaign on the London tube - P1030880Google seems to be coming in for a lot of stick at the moment.

Many Twitter users are aghast at the thought of Google buying Twitter, and their handling of popular blog tool Feedburner has come under fire (including here on this blog).

Some of the criticism is justified, others less so. Yet is it any surprise that Google continues to come under fire when the company itself seems to go out of its way to upset the community it relies on for its userbase?

Here’s an example.

Yesterday I asked if Google bought Twitter, would they would be a benefit or a hindrance to the micro-blogging site. I cited Google’s handling of Feedburner, and the fact that their Gmail email service is still in beta after five years. I linked this to the official Gmail blog.

The link resulted in some new traffic that I may not have had, with the readers of the Gmail blog obviously curious about the Twitter angle and Google’s involvement.

Today, I noticed that the link had been removed from the Gmail blog. And not just my link – there was another one that asked how a company can keep a product on beta for five years (which is now back on the blog, bizarrely).

(As a test, I’m linking there again with screen capture at my side – let’s see if they’ll allow this link and if so, for how long).


So, does Google only link to stories that are positive about their company? Are they trying to paint a picture that all is well with their services, and that they’re still every web user’s friend?

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to allow the link and maybe respond to the post in question?

Open up discussion and have some healthy debate about what users would like to see and whether this is feasible or not, as well as address blogger issues at the same time?

It’s a shame. By removing the link to a non-congratulatory piece, Google have taken a step down the Internet censorship path that web users hate. Sure, it’s Google’s Gmail blog so they can do what they want – that’s their prerogative.

But the end result of this is that Google begins to look like the indie band that struck it lucky and hit superstardom, and then forgot all about the fans that put them there. Instead, they’d rather hang with the faux celebrities and hangers-on that only stroke their ego.

Of course, you could say Google’s so big they don’t need to worry about what the little guy like me says. Funny thing is, though, upset enough of the little guys and it soon becomes a big guy problem.

And with little guy alternatives to Google’s services becoming more widespread, where would that leave Google?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Larsz

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  1. says

    Interesting Danny, I’m hoping that Google doesn’t acquire Twitter mainly because of the mess you touched on earlier (feedburner). I’m kind of nervous though: your analogy of an indie band hitting it big and selling out is dead on. I’m really really hoping this isn’t the case with Google…and feedburner and censorship are no longer issues.

  2. says

    I hope google does buy twitter because we will be sure that twitter stays open. Gmail may have the tag ‘beta’ on in, but it runs better than yahoo or msn.
    if Gwitter took off, we would not longer see that “Something is technically wrong here” Google has the best techies about.
    Gwitter is over capacity? Heck, I doubt that Gwitter would even have a window created that says it – we’d never see it (OK, once a year on my birthday – today – Gtwitter would be flooded as both of my friends send me a Gweet).

    Long live Gwitter

  3. says

    I’d be concerned if they were removing stuff from search results and the like, but I don’t think it’s all that unexpected or unreasonable that they’d remove negative publicity from their own blog. “Censorship” is an exaggeration.

    • says

      Is it an exaggeration if it’s only positive comments being allowed, though? Doesn’t this give a skewed view of Google, which in effect is censorship of some form?

      It’s not too dissimilar to the approach the Chinese government takes with its web approach, in that it frequently takes down any website that criticizes its human rights issues, or the way that the media is sanctioned. If you just allow one point of view to be shown, it’s censorship.

  4. says

    GMail’s Beta politics is a bit more complicated than that, I think. I think they use it as a major minefield and even though it’s basically a final, working product, they keep it in beta so they can’t be blamed if they feck something up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. says

    Google isn’t the “ooooohgle” anymore! :~)

    I can’t even begin because I already am “one of the little guys upset” who one day may be “a big guy around campus” who could potentially rally focus and “make a big problem” but they really don’t care!

    Simply put, I was delighted when I read about “one little guy” who took them to court and won on the same issue that I encountered! To me this was sweet justice indeed! :~)

    I would have posted the link but censorship would have likely disabled it!:~)

    Thanks, Danny! It’s always so nice to wake and “think behind great causes!”

  6. says

    Google definitely uses its weight. I want to take the debate a little further, since the web is an open medium, why not allow opinion of any kind to exist and be approached?

    As any bid to organize the web, by means of what is relevant and what is not, is like weeding a rain forest. And that definitely will not be a good thing for the existence of the web.

  7. says

    I don’t think GG is censoring these links. There is a limit on how much links to show on a Google blog post: it only shows the latest 50 links.

    So your link was probably digged down because more than 50 links were posted after yours…

    Then again, you may be right, the 50th link was published on April 3rd, your post was on April 7th. hmmm…

    Another guess: Google does automatic analysis to see if the post linking back to google blog is related to the article. Kind of anti-spam technique, maybe!

    • says

      I could see that happening if there were a ton of links going inward, but that wasn’t the case with the original one. Add in that the other link I mentioned (the one that disappeared then reappeared) was just above mine and it’s clear my link was removed.

      I could also agree with the spam filter as well, if it wasn’t for the fact that the link was talking about Gmail and its 5-year anniversary.

      Seems like Google is just a tad touchy these days… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. says

    Don’t p!ss off the little guys, their voice can become a roar, I came to this post from a retweet on Twitter, someone saying something sensible and asking questions seems to bubble to the top in the new converstation age. Big business cannot bury the desenting voices.

    Google should know this.

    • says

      That’s a good point, Neil – if you do try to bury something it has a habit of becoming bigger than the original point made. I guess we’ll see.

      Thanks for stopping by, nice to have you here.

  9. says

    I love Google and think it’s doing/has done many great things all around. But as I asked back in August, and as you’re asking now, are they defying their own mantra and getting evil?

    I’m a huge fan of the small guy. Is there a point when you become one of the “big guys” that things like this are just inevitable? Or is it possible to be a big ass gorilla that isn’t evil?

    • says

      It’s a good question, Tim. If you look at Apple and Microsoft, for example, they often get criticized for their “evil” approach (Apple for third-party iPhone developers and DRM, Microsoft for trying to take over the world and Windows). Although, in Microsoft’s defence, the Gates Foundation rights about every single wrong of theirs you could mention.

      It’s sad to think that as size grows, relevance could diminish. We’ll see…

  10. says

    I believe that Google is already too big to care about ‘little ones’ and I also think that the big G is already into censorship practices. Look what is doing in China. Are those reports of Google censorships ruled by the Chinese government all lies?

  11. says

    That’s kinda weird.
    I’m pretty sure I remember Google being somewhat against online censorship when they were first moving into China, but eventually gave in. Though, it still seems weird that they would be censoring stuff on their blog.
    Maybe they are getting too big for us little people, but I hope not.