Don’t shoot the messenger

Last week I mentioned the co-ordinated attack on Google by one or two newspapers in this country, and suggested that their motivation was rather more commercial than out of public concern. Inevitably the Daily Mail then waded in, and its crass and misleading coverage demonstrated my point exactly. Showing a typically low regard for its readers’ intelligence, the newspaper’s argument seemed to go as follows:

  • We found some bad stuff on the internet;
  • We used Google to find that stuff;
  • Google must be a friend to terrorists.

The idea that Google is responsible for everything on the internet is ludicrous, of course. My local library can get me that manifesto by Marx & Engels but I don’t think the lovely librarians who’ve worked there over the years were responsible for 20th century communism. However, even judicial systems have fallen for this trap, most notably with the EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling.

Many people took the time to call out the Daily Mail’s hypocrisy, but the newspaper knows what it’s doing. It’s not expecting advertisers to read this stuff and recoil from using Google in horror. Advertisers aren’t daft. But it is expecting advertisers to start worrying what their customers might be thinking, especially everyday brands whose customers include the less sharper tools in the general public box.

I hope that Google will come out fighting against this nonsense, on behalf of rational people everywhere. Its track record, however, suggests that will not be the case. Meanwhile we’ll all just keep calm and carry on.

(The blog post linked-to above is well worth a read, by the way)