Something frighteningly ominous has been happening on the Internet lately: Google, without any prior explanation or notice, has been terminating its News relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals.
At first blush, one can easily ignore such business decisions by the most powerful company on the Internet as being routine. However, on closer examination, such behavior could give one relatively small technological corporation (when measured by the size of its workforce) a degree of political might that frankly dwarfs its current financial prowess...
The Results Speak For Themselves
Obviously, the results have been stellar. Google has quickly moved to the forefront of all things Internet. According to the April 2006 Nielsen/NetRatings report, 49 percent of all searches conducted in the U.S. in March 2006 were carried out on Google. This is an astounding market share that continues to grow.
In addition, a recent study by Hitwise ranked Google News as the fifth most visited news website behind Yahoo, the Weather Channel, MSNBC, and CNN, clearly making it a growing force in news aggregation.
This penetration has given the company unprecedented influence on society. Appearing on the first page of any word search result list all but assures higher hit rates, which equates to higher revenues for e-tailers as well as brick and mortar retailers using the web to drive traffic, and more reads for news and opinion providers.
In fact, Google ranking can actually be a determining factor in the success and, perhaps, very viability of online business ventures, especially to companies with limited or no domain name recognition. This reality has given rise to a cottage industry that offers enterprises measures to improve their standings. These Search Engine Optimization companies make use of approved and, sometimes, dubious techniques to coerce better page rankings and, thereby, superior public exposure.
Ghosts In The Machine
With this much influence and with so much at stake, challenges are inevitable. A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, by Kinderstart.com, which seeks to prove that Google has become an "essential facility” to business, and that its arbitrary manner of banning sites from its search results represents anticompetitive behavior.
Maybe more important, when it comes to the dissemination of news, if any aggregator – be it Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. – is creating arbitrary rules to determine what will be accessible on its pages, the potential for bias in what gets reported rears its ugly little head.
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