Why I fell out of love with google

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Daniel W. 10 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #7578

    David Boots
    Participant

    An early advocate of google I have now changed my views for the following reasons.

    Encyclopedia or Yellow Pages? It has been a long time since google functioned as an unbiased index to information. Google is an advertising mechanism more like a Yellow Pages. But unlike a physical Yellow Pages google will show you the information it wants to show you. Few people realise that the same search will produce different information depending on your geographic location, age and gender. Fewer people still know that google has thousands of people on staff whose sole function is to look at your searches and provide a human interpretation of what you type in.

    Tax avoidance. Google is now an irish company which specialises in avoiding paying tax. Despite google earning more than a billion dollars in revenue in my jurisdiction (Australia) I paid more income tax than google did. True story.  And I can assure you I did not earn a billion dollars last year.

    Anti-competitive behaviour. Google owns youtube which it deliberately runs at a loss. It does so for two reasons. The first is tax. By cleverly (and probably illegally) shifting revenue offshore to ireland they pay a lower tax rate. The second is anti-competitive behaviour. Have you ever wondered why there are so few alternatives to youtube? It’s because any entrant to the market faces a competitor who is run at a loss.

    If that were not enough, Google also favours its own products. Recently it lost a European anti-trust case and was fined (a puny) 2.8 billion dollars for doing so. Here is an example of how it does this. Lets say you want to sell a computer game. You form a company and give half the shares in the game to google and they will guarantee you sales. Nintendo did exactly that with (thanks to google) the wildly successful Pokemon Go.

    Censorship. Google censors search results both passively and actively. Passvie censorship occurs by showing you only what they want you to see. I know from first hand experience that if you advertise with google you will (magically) see your search rank rise over time. By using youtube to de-monetise content producers whose views they disagree with – atheists have been and are still being targeted.

    This alone should be of concern to the atheist community.

    #7579

    Strega
    Moderator

    David, you are depicting Google as successful capitalists. That’s what capitalists do.

    How are atheists infringed on specifically as a result?  It sounds to me as if you’ve just had a negative run-in with YouTube and you’re lashing out. Have you?

    #7581

    David Boots
    Participant

    Not at all and i disagree with the notion that this behaviour amounts to successful capitalism. Tax evasion and anti-competitive behaviour is not capitalism. In fact it is the opposite of capitalism.

    #7582

    David Boots
    Participant

    If you would like to hear first hand about the impact of google censorship on atheist speech check out ‘The Cult of Dusty’ and ‘Jaclyn Glenn’ on youtube.

    #7583

    Strega
    Moderator

    It is unchecked capitalism.  It goes by the one golden rule – Don’t get caught.  Why would you think Google could be different?

    #7585

    David Boots
    Participant

    Capitalism is a big topic but really I see the issue as one of politics. It is not difficult to pass laws to ensure fair taxation. Whether countries can muster that political will is another thing.

    I agree that in most respects Google is no different (and perhaps even better than some) companies. Each entity will act in its own best interests. We just hope that those interests align with the interests of society.

    google is a little different in that it is thought of and represents itself as an information search engine. Not only does it control what advertising you see, it controls what information you see.

    That may sound a little conspiracy like but as of today it controls 75% of all information provided over the internet via search engines. That is an extraordinary level of power. With that power comes the opportunity to abuse that information. In terms of advertising power google controls directly one third of all advertising on the internet. I cannot find any figures on how much advertising it controls indirectly. I do know from personal experience that if you dont pay google to advertise you have almost no chance of being ranked. Obviously that would only apply to smaller enterprises.

    #7592

    Strega
    Moderator

    I’m probably way too cynical, as I’ve sat on the boards of several different financial institutions and been immersed in what I’d casually call corporate skullduggery today.  Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft between them control a huge proportion of what our internet interactions have become. In some ways, the US government withdrawing Net Neutrality regulations won’t change anything other than remove the veil of deception – power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    #7595

    jakelafort
    Participant

    And here i stood so sure SCOTUS was full of shit with their decision in Citizens United.

    #7597

    Daniel W.
    Participant

    The current batch of mind-boggling rich and powerful corporations, that impact every detail of our lives, is a form of social Darwinism.  In past eras, that was banks, railroads (Vanderbilt), slavery (US Steel, rubber industry), liquor smuggling (Kennedys), oil (Gettys) etc.  Now it’s information, communications, pharmaceuticals, real estate, entertainment.

    My concern about Facebook and Google and Twitter is they may have worsened social tribalism and propagandization – the real “fake news”. I fear we are moving towards authoritarianism and decreasing economic democracy as a result of their profit making systems.

    That doesnt mean we should give in to robber barons or thugs.  Instead of google, I use duckduckgo.  Instead of chrome or safari or explorer, I use firefox.  I limit facebook use, with about 25 people, mostly a rare cancer support group and former coworkers.  I do use gmail, after yahoo went down the toilet with hijackinv searches and covering up their hacks.  I support real news, by subscribing to WaPost, NYTimes, and our local paper, not google or facebook.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Daniel W..
    #7612

    David Boots
    Participant

    Daniel can we coin the term ‘Information Barons‘ ?

    #7623

    Strega
    Moderator

    How funny, Daniel, I also subscribe to the Washington Post, New York Times and the local vtdigger.

    #7636

    Davis
    Participant

    I have to do a lot of searching for various sources as well as auxiliary information. Google used to be invaluable for this. Great search functions. Now I have to put a lot more work into finding what I’m actually looking for. It’s complex and I’ve had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get around or avoid the “directed content”.

    It used to be I could search a term and find a user generated list of data (made by someone who has a humble page with a couple adds but reliable information) and use it. For many purposes. Now, the first two or three search results pages are almost all either newspaper articles about it the topic (often with pay walls) or websites who have identical information as the user-generated website only you have to either sign up to use it, or more likely pay for it. Even if you do pay, it is so saturated with adds and videos that sometimes those pages crash my browser. So basically a page everyone can easily use, benefit from, have reliable information…has been relegated to near obscurity, replaced with dozens of websites that do nothing but make you pay to access the same info.

    To avoid some of this I use a private browser and use aVPN to disguise my IP address and I frequently install or uninstall a font or two on my computer (this way google cannot easily profile your maching and direct content to you). Using a private browser also helps about directed content based on previous searches, all the websites I’ve visited (they know) or the data they’ve collected on me. I also have to use some elaborate search terms to weed out the pointlessly expensive and time wasting links.

    And I haven’t even gotten started with searching information and data about something that also happens to be related to a product people buy a lot of. For example, specific data about solar panels. There was a time I could get the info I needed about a secific model and its efficacy, efficiency and other statistics. Now, basically the first two or three result pages, despite using a specific search for specific data, are nothing but pages that directly or indirectly sell solar panels. No info I need. Even using a term like “-buy” and”-product” and “-order” and results that have the exact search term: “brand xxx statistics” … there will still be a ton of shit in the way before i find it (and that’s using an add blocker).

    They’ve gotten so greedy and manipulative that I am frustrated daily and have to invest more time to do something that was once extremely easy to do. And to think, I never bothered with an adblocker before google became more agressive. Meaning, I used to see ads, now I see few and the few I see…are products I never want to buy again. Their monopoly on internet searches has gone so far beyond anti-trust it is simply abusive consumer treatment.

    It’s even worse with image searches and video searches…where the search results don’t even respect search terms. I might type “-commercial” and “-buy” on an image search but nothing but images which cost a lot of money to buy show up on the first many pages. And it’s not even clear that you have to pay for them until you visit the actual site. You have to search through a dozen or so images until you find an affordable one (or god forbid a quality creative commons image that used to be easy to find).

    I don’t use google chat on my phone because its a tedious process to sign out and I many times I don’t want people seeing im online and sending me messages the moment I sign in. They make it hard to log out, because the longer you are logged in…the more you use the app and the more of your personal data they inhale.

    Youtube (owned by google) won’t play videos on your phone in the background. Since they own the android operating system, they have total control over how you watch videos and if you aren’t watching the video (as opposed to listening to the music int he background while using another app) it wont play, cause otherwise you’ll hear the adds rather than see them. Google play has removed all 3rd party apps that used to let you listen to videos in the background. Because, that’s the kind of shit google does and it gets worse all the time.

    And let’s not even get started with facebook and social media in general.

    The worst part is…I’m from a pre-internet generation, I’m more aware of data collecting and search results manipulation than the average user and I have research training and know what I’m looking for. I can still eventually get to what I actually want to or at least compare various results. The next generation has none of that. They click on the first result of everything and don’t even know there is better content, non-blogger-who-doesn’t-know-shit-and-still-writes-ignorant-shit-about-the-topc, non-alternative-health-treatment content, non-fake-news content and non-commerical content that they could access. Luckily the EU has had the guts and power in numbers to start clamping down on google, facebook and microsoft but it is still such a tiny little bandaid

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #7638

    Today’s Google “celebrates” Data Privacy Day.

     

    #7652

    Daniel W.
    Participant

    @davis, your description parallels my experience.  Search quality and ease have both degraded significantly during the past few years.  I did think of duckduckgo as being less complete than google, but lately it seems like less hassle and less complicated.  Lately, for some things, I’ve gone back to local yellow pages and local newspaper, which are less hassle than google.  I’ve also noticed something I think is malware, but I don’t know from where.  Keystrokes are delayed and sometimes dropped, on my old laptop, new laptop, and recently, tablet.  I’ve repeatedly run malware detection and cleanup programs, have a firewall, and continuous security program.  It still happens.  It usually clears for a while with a cold reboot.  Other malware re-sets my default browser to Explorer or my default search engine to Yahoo, although I have cleared those for the time being.

     

    Recently I listened to a Sam Harris podcast on an unrelated topic, which I think gave me some insight on google, apple, facebook etc.  The podcast was in his “Waking Up” series, I think it was “Why Buddhism is True”.  Either Harris or his guest stated, we are not evolutionarily hardwired for happiness [contentment].  What makes the species [countries, civilizations, billionairres, corporations, religions] successful at proliferating, is nothing is enough.  Eventually, no meal is enough.  No sex is enough.  No acquisition is enough.  No power is enough.  No money is enough.  Members of a species with an endless drive for more, dominate and proliferate at the expense of those they overrun [or eliminate, impregnate, convert].  But that success does not mean happiness, because happiness might curtail further invasiveness and limit success of species, etc.   Expecially for individuals.  As an individual, learning to let go of insatiable drives can mean more happiness and contentment.

     

    Comments in brackets are me, extrapolating from the general idea.

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Daniel W..
    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Daniel W..
    #7668

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Same here, google’s pissed me off by ignoring my specific search terms even when their in quotes, with a plus sign, and they keep giving me the “did you mean… blah blah” results that steer me away from what I want.

    Like Strega says, it’s obviously a profit-motive thing; common practice. The only ways I can think of to work around capitalism’s flaws are 1) educate the masses to be both informed and skeptical; 2) somehow monetarily reward the people and institutions who know how to responsibly curate and link to vetted data, information, research, and more.

    It’s a tough problem. There are some good guys out there in .edu, public radio and tv, journalism (yeah again for WaPo and NYT), but the real-world hurdles: They need money to survive, and they need a savvy audience who can pay and cheer for them.

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