FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative. Hence, this article is non-aligned.
Are Facebook, Twitter and Google corrupting their brands by being socially underhanded?
Of late, both Facebook and Twitter have been publicly accused of censoring non-left-of-center content. Now Google admits to blocking advertisements due to Google’s perception of social desirability. In each instance, these corporate goliaths, which together control the flow of most online human interaction, either admit to or are accused of filtering legal content based on their perception of what should or should not be.
The new media is aping the old media, and runs the risk of the same fate.
Regardless of if you agree or disagree with the filtered content, the troubling aspect is that large corporations are deciding what content their users should and should not see. Outside of endangering activities (e.g. terrorism, child porn, congress convening), the Internet has been libertarian in nature. The consumer, now provided with ample choices for everything, could consume the content they preferred.
Herein is where Google, Facebook and Twitter are engineering their own potential downfall by going against their inherited brand.
Perception is reality, and consumers perceive the Internet as being open (and in most ways, it is). They also perceive Internet companies as adhering to that openness. To censor content, aside from normal usage policy and elements either illegal or endangering, goes against this umbrella brand. If the accusations against Twitter and Facebook are remotely true, then they stand against their own brand, the general brand of Internet companies and their own users.
And nothing will hurt you more than contradicting your own brand.
Google is no better, though at least they were more open. Google decided to ban advertisements for payday loan companies on moral principles. These legally chartered and openly operating companies may not be a great deal, but they are part of the overall mechanisms of commerce. Google is in effect picking and choosing which legal businesses will succeed and fail based on their own moral declarations.
This violates not only the basic openness of the Internet, but also Google’s pledge to not do evil. After all, who is Google to decide if a payday loan is inappropriate for everyone. I personally know a cancer patient who, due to the crushing financial weight of medical treatments, occasionally needs to get a cash advance, and these establishments are an avenue he has used.
The Internet has proven one thing: what was a great service yesterday is a has been today (have you updated your MySpace page lately?) People not only have choices, but can engineer alternatives for a very low entry cost. Not Facebook, Twitter, nor Google are immune to rejection for violating their brand and that of the Internet.
Google has now been accused of politicizing search. The evidence is compelling and worrisome.
The abbreviated story is that predictive search returns on Google are being modified to not reflect what people are most often seeking in regards to one of the presidential candidates. In short, Google appears to be suppressing bad news about a candidate, allegedly because Google CEO Eric Schmidt is actively supporting said candidate.
This would be the most troubling of all these infractions of Internet openness culture — to misuse Google’s market dominance to rig an election. For examples of the search result editing, see http://freebeacon.com/politics/here-are-10-more-examples-of-google-search-results-favorable-to-hillary/.
Facebook was caught in deleting one nearly identical post. The two posts were nearly identical, except for one word. That word represented either a left/right bias about an international issue. Facebook deleted the right-of-center post (they bowed to pressure when a [former] member foreign government got involved).