Since the earliest days of MTP, we’ve been pushing what has come to be called the “value gap”–the margin of profit that Big Tech makes from playing games with the DMCA safe harbor (and the Section 230 safe harbor in the Communications Decency Act). In 2006 we called this “The DMCA is Not an Alibi” and pointed the finger directly at the biggest offender–Google and in particular its YouTube subsidiary.
We’ve also pushed the facts on how Google creates fake astroturf groups which has been going on for years and in countries other than the United States. While no one has ever looked too hard at what happened in SOPA opposition in the US and ACTA resistance in Europe, the circumstantial evidence suggests that there’s a mismatch of grand proportion between the number of “people” who show up for anonymous or near anonymous online “protests” yet nearly zero warm bodies show up in person to protest, say, Copyright Office Roundtables on modifications to the DMCA safe harbor.
This was even true of the White House petition on SOPA–there were no geographical boundaries on who could sign up to a White House petition, which is the least that you would think that the President of the United States would try to accomplish on a petition that directly affected U.S. law. We’re assuming that the same rules applied to all White House petitions, but it ain’t necessarily so–given Google’s White House influence, restrictions could have been dropped for SOPA alone.
We saw it once again with the Article 13 vote in the European Parliament. Millions participated in what could legitimately be described as a last minute DDOS style attack on the European Parliament–again, anonymous or near anonymous and largely unverifiable communications shrouded under the shield of “constituent communications” with no way to verify in real time exactly who these people were.
This makes no sense–why is it that the only time the anti-copyright crowd can summon large amounts of data is when no one knows who they are?
David Lowery and Volker Rieck writing in The Trichordist have put their finger right on exactly how Google accomplishes this policy bombing with stunning exposes of OpenMedia and New/Mode, the two organizations that seem to be funded by Google and are as close to what Mr. Rieck called the “political hack” of the European Parliament as one is to two.
We also posted on MTP about this issue and called on EU public prosecutors and the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager to investigate the entire process.
The reason we mentioned Margrethe Vestager is because the week of the Article 13 intimidation campaign, the European Commission fined Google some $5 billion. Understand that Google got involved late in the Article 13 debate and stood up its astroturf campaign very late in the cycle–this would have been right about the time that Google knew it was about to be the subject of yet another multi-billion fine for its bad behavior.
These competition actions don’t happen in a vacuum and there is a lot of dialog with the companies subject to the fine, so it is hard to believe that the timing of the announcement by Commissioner Vestager as well as the amount wasn’t well-known to Google when it dropped the hammer on Article 13’s astroturf campaign. Not only that, but when the usual suspects called me out, I knew I was onto something.
Fortunately, David’s first rate investigative report on the astroturf campaign caught the attention of as august journal as The Times of London (“Google funds website that spams for its causes”) which confirmed David’s story with its own independent investigation. It is becoming increasingly apparent that in a post-Cambridge Analytica world, do we take these aberrant behaviors as normal or do we question them?
None of Google’s attacks on government should be surprising–anarchy is in their DNA. As former Obama White House aide and Internet savant Susan Crawford tells us:
I was brought up and trained in the Internet Age by people who really believed that nation states were on the verge of crumbling…and we could geek around it. We could avoid it. These people were irrelevant.
There seems little doubt that Google paid off Open Media to do its political dirty work–the question is, do the Members of the European Parliament want to sit there and keep getting abused by an antagonistic multinational corporation, or do they want to do something about it.