Google Galt

Robert Scoble’s Flickr, CC BY

John Galt is a fictional character from the book Atlas Shrugged, who inspired several businessmen to revolt against the system in the dystopian United States. Revolt against the system in which politicians, bureaucrats, trade union members, and last but not least “crony” capitalists (entrepreneurs taking advantage of lobbing and allied politicians) are tightening a noose around businessmen´s necks more and more by regulations, conditions, prohibition and “fair” tax rates.

The revolt is not a violent protest but a “strike”. Businessmen followed John Galt, left factories and offices, and showed their country what the life without entrepreneurial spirit, innovations and responsibility is like. In reality, companies are more pragmatic, though emotions are not always absent. A company continues in its business if it is still economically beneficial despite burdens thrown on it. However, there are limits.

This is the case of Google. The company faced lobbing of local media in several EU countries. The media made a complaint about the Google News service. They required the service to pay them for publishing links to their news. In other words, they did not decide to face a long-term slump in revenues through innovations, but, instead, they decided to make it out of someone else.

In 2013 Google gave up and founded a 60-millions´ fund to silence media in France. However, it ran out of patience when Spain decided to impose a tax for each link displayed in search engines, thus primarily Google. The reaction was prompt: “As we do not display advertisement and do not earn money directly from Google News, this system is unsustainable for us. From the December 16th on, the Google News service will come to an end in Spain.”

This caused such shock among Spanish media that they virtually immediately began to ask the government and the EU to reverse Google´s decision. They are aware, that without Google News their websites will face drop in numbers of visits. Furthermore knowledge about happening in Spain will decline, too, as it will be more difficult to find primary sources (some speculate that this situation will suit Spanish government in 2015, as it is a year of several elections).

This is not the only battlefield on which Google and other technology companies fight in Europe. From annoying “cookie regulations”, which spam our screens with EU pop ups, to those big ones, such as “right to be forgotten”. After the 2014´s decision of the European Court of Justice, search engines, if required, are obliged to delete indexing of any reference about the person in any form (even in a comment under an article). Theoretically, each request should be considered, but that is technically impossible. Thus Google deletes the majority (60%) of references on request. There is no need to emphasize that this right is primarily used by politicians and criminals.

Since the May 14, 2014, Google has received 185.000 requests and deleted 670.000 search results (i.e. it made impossible to find particular articles via European versions of Google search engine). The EU still does not understand the old truth that once something is on the Internet, it stays there forever, and that the Internet does not equal Google. The latest initiative aimed against search engines would require them to delete records not only from European but also from American indexes used for search results in Europe.

The biggest fight is yet to come. The European Commission considers forcing Google to separate their web search from other services. Search is the core service on which other Google´s paid services are based, therefore it is hard to imagine the company will accept such decision in peace. Some commentators suggest Google to follow the same path as they chose in China – to leave European market. Europeans would be then left to use American versions of its services.

Or we may be saved by Eurocrats who will subsidize European search engine. If Russia can have its own national one – Sputnik – why should we be worse? It would certainly be social-ecological-racial-gender-consumer correct.

Translation: Daniela Potocnakova