We’re well used to verbal slingshots being fired at Google by music industry rightsholders of various sizes, but the company also attracts criticism from elsewhere in the media industry.
News Corporation, for example, which yesterday published a stinging letter from its chief executive Robert Thomson to current EC competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia. It praises his decision to reconsider a settlement offer in the long-running negotiations about alleged anticompetitive behaviour from Google.
The rhetoric gives even Google’s harshest music industry critics a run for their money. “The company has evolved from a wonderfully feisty, creative Silicon Valley startup to a vast, powerful, often unaccountable bureaucracy, which is sometimes contemptuous of intellectual property and routinely configures its search results in a manner that is far from objective,” wrote Thomson, with his newspaper and book publishing hats on.
And while he accepts “there are many, many honorable and thoroughly professional individuals working at Google”, he counselled against naivety about the company.
“The shining vision of Google’s founders has been replaced by a cynical management, which offers advertisers impressively precise data about users and content usage, but has been a platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks, all while driving more traffic and online advertising dollars to Google,” wrote Thomson.
“A company that boasts about its ability to track traffic chooses to ignore the unlawful and unsavoury content that surfaces after the simplest of searches. Google has been remarkably successful in its ability to monetize users, but has not shown the willingness, even though it clearly has the ability, to respect fundamental property rights.”
News Corporation playing David to Google’s Goliath won’t be easy for a lot of people to swallow, although Thomson’s suggestion that Google’s “egregious aggregation” of news content is one of the newspaper world’s biggest problems is at least balanced by the admission of “flawed strategy and lack of leadership” in that industry’s approach to digital disruption.
Even so, this all filters in to the wider unrest within traditional media and entertainment industries about the power held by internet giants – “Internet idealism is used by Google and certain other digital companies as an injudicious justification for inappropriate business practices,” as Thomson puts it.
With Almunia due to end his stint as competition commissioner, though, navigating this important but ever-more heated debate will soon be another politician’s challenge.