Blog Archives

Google is coming after critics. It’s time to stop them

The search engine giant is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach

By Zephyr Teachout

Published: 16:49 August 31, 2017

About 10 years ago, Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who coined the term ‘network neutrality’, made this prescient comment: “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king.”

Wu was right. And now, Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point common to many monarchs: The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent.

This summer, a small team of well-respected researchers and journalists, the Open Markets team at the New America think tank (where I have been a fellow since 2014), dared to speak up about Google, in the mildest way. When the European Union fined Google for preferring its own subsidiary companies to its rival companies in search results, it was natural that Open Markets, a group dedicated to studying and exposing distortions in markets, including monopoly power, would comment. The researchers put out a 150-word statement praising the EU’s actions. They wrote, “By requiring that Google give equal treatment to rival services instead of privileging its own, [the EU] is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.”

They called upon the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice and state attorneys general to apply the traditional American monopoly law, which would require separate ownership of products and services and the networks that sell products and services.

Google has been funding New America for years at high levels. Within 24 hours of the statement going live, Google representatives called New America’s leadership expressing their displeasure. Two planned hires for the Open Markets team suddenly were cancelled. Three days later, the head of the Open Markets team, the accomplished journalist Barry Lynn, received a letter from the head of the think tank, demanding that the entire team leave New America. The reason? The statement praising the EU’s decision against Google was, according to New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter, “imperiling the institution.” (As of this writing, Slaughter has denounced the story as false, claiming that Lynn was dismissed for failures of “openness” and “collegiality.”)

When Google was founded in 1998, it famously committed itself to the motto: “Don’t be evil.” It appears that Google may have lost sight of what being evil means, in the way that most monarchs do: Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said: “Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.” Those with too much power cannot help but be evil. Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony.

Google did not always operate this way in relation to think tanks, even those it funded. The head of Google’s parent company, Eric Schmidt, served on the board of New America starting 2000 and was chairman from 2008 through May 2016. The Open Markets institute has long studied excessive corporate power and argued for the importance of anti-monopoly laws. They were not previously punished for their work.

But in recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views. And as the New York Times recently reported, it has become invested in building curriculum for our public schools, and has created political strategy to get schools to adopt its products.

This year, Google is on track to spend more money than any company in America on lobbying. In 2015, it was the third biggest corporate spender, paying more than ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin or the Koch brothers on lobbying. Much of what it is spending its money on has nothing to do with technical details regarding its search engine and everything to do with using its power in its search engine to shut out some competitors and build power over others.

It is time to call out Google for what it is: A monopolist in search, video, maps and browser, and a thin-skinned tyrant when it comes to ideas. The imperial overreach of Google in trying to shut down a group of five researchers proves the point that the initial release from Open Markets was trying to make: When companies get too much power, they become a threat to democratic free speech and to the liberty of citizens at large.

In 1948, in the Supreme Court case US vs Columbia Steel Co., Justice William Douglas explained that the traditional philosophy of American antitrust law is that “all power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy … should be scattered into many hands so that the fortunes of the people will not be dependent on the whim or caprice, the political prejudices, the emotional stability of a few self-appointed men”.

Google is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach. We, as citizens, must respond in two ways. First, support the brave researchers and journalists who stand up to overreaching power; and second, support traditional anti-monopoly laws that will allow us to have great, innovative companies — but not allow them to govern us.

Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why.

— Washington Post

Zephyr Teachout is an associate professor of law at Fordham University.

Source

NSA spying on Petrobras, if proven, is industrial espionage -Rousseff

By Anthony Boadle

(Reuters) – Reports that the United States spied on Brazilian oil company Petrobras, if proven, would be tantamount to industrial espionage and have no security justification, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said on Monday.

Brazil’s Globo television network reported on Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into the computer networks of Petrobras and other companies, including Google Inc. , citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The report came as Brazil is preparing to auction rights to tap some of the largest oil finds in the world in recent decades, deposits trapped under a salt layer off its Atlantic coast. State-run Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company and a source of national pride, made the discoveries in recent years and will be a mandatory partner in developing all of the new deep-sea fields.

The Globo report added tension to relations between Washington and Brasilia already strained by previous disclosures of NSA spying on internet communications in Brazil, including email messages and phone calls of Rousseff herself.

An angry Rousseff has repeatedly demanded an explanation. At stake is a state visit by Rousseff to the White House on Oct. 23 to meet President Barack Obama and discuss a possible $4 billion jet fighter deal, cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, as well as other commercial agreements.

“If the facts reported by the press are confirmed, it will be evident that the motive for the spying attempts is not security or the war on terrorism but strategic economic interests,” Rousseff said in a statement.

The U.S. government has said the secret internet surveillance programs disclosed by Snowden in June are aimed at monitoring suspected terrorist activity and do look at the content of private messages or phone calls.

PETROBAS NOT A SECURITY THREAT

“Clearly, Petrobras is not a threat to the security of any country,” Rousseff said, adding that the company is one of the world’s largest oil assets and belongs to the Brazilian people.

Brazil will take steps to protect itself, its government and its companies, Rousseff said, without elaborating. She said such espionage and interception of data were illegal and had no place in the relations between two democratic nations.

On Friday, Obama met with Rousseff during a summit of leaders of the world’s largest economies in St. Petersburg, Russia, and pledged to look into the reports that the NSA had snooped on her personal communications and those of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto when he was still a candidate.

She said Obama had promised her a reply by Wednesday.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo is scheduled to meet in Washington on the same day with Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, Brazilian officials said.

Globo did not say when the alleged spying took place, what data might have been gathered or what exactly the NSA may have been seeking. The television report showed slides from an NSA presentation, dated May 2012, that it said was used to show new agents how to spy on private computer networks.

In addition to Google and Petrobras the presentation suggested the NSA had tapped into systems operated by France’s foreign ministry and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, an international bank cooperative known as Swift through which many cross-border financial transactions take place.

Brazilian officials said the spying report would not affect the upcoming auction of rights to extract oil from the giant Libra oil field, which will go ahead as scheduled on Oct. 21.

Some Brazilian politicians have suggested that U.S. companies should be excluded from the bidding, but experts said that is legally impossible according to the terms of the auction.

Libra has estimated reserves of between 8 and 12 billion barrels of oil, according to Brazilian oil regulator ANP.

Brazil is counting on the new oil production to consolidate its emergence as a world economic power and take the country’s development to a new level. Rousseff signed a law on Monday that designates the royalties from the new oil production contracts for health and education programs.

Source

Special Report: Amazon’s billion-dollar tax shield

By Tom Bergin
LUXEMBOURG | Thu Dec 6, 2012 3:18am EST

(Reuters) – In 2005, Amazon rented a historic five-storey building in Luxembourg‘s Grund quarter, right at the bottom of a steep rock-walled valley below the old town.

By setting up in Luxembourg, and channelling sales through its units there, the world’s biggest online retailer could minimize corporate taxes.

It was a move with big financial consequences.

Amazon’s Luxembourg arrangements have deprived European governments of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax that it might otherwise have owed, as reported in European newspapers. But a Reuters examination of accounts filed by 25 Amazon units in six countries shows how they also allowed the company to avoid paying more tax in the United States, where the company is based.

In effect, Amazon used inter-company payments to form a tax shield for the group, behind which it has accumulated $2 billion to help finance its expansion.

Amazon revealed last year that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants $1.5 billion in back taxes. The claim, which Amazon said it would “vigorously contest”, is linked to its foreign subsidiaries and payments made between them.

The issue highlights the way multinationals reduce their taxes by parking intellectual property in tax havens and charging affiliates big fees for using it. Politicians in rich countries are beginning to target such practices, which have been used by other multinationals including Google and Microsoft.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin has called the tactics “gimmickry.” Michael McIntyre, a tax expert at Wayne State University in Michigan, said that while Amazon’s arrangement, and others like it, looked like commercial transactions, they actually only served to reduce taxes.

“The IRS shouldn’t be happy about this,” he said. “It sounds like they’re not.”

Amazon declined to answer questions about its tax affairs for this story, the latest in a Reuters series on corporate tax avoidance. In an emailed statement a spokesman said that “Amazon pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within.”

The group has come under scrutiny from tax departments in at least six countries over the past six years. Tax authorities in the United States, UK, Germany, France and Luxembourg declined to comment, citing rules on taxpayer confidentiality.

The Luxembourg structure, outlined by media including the Guardian newspaper in April, fulfils a corporate obligation to shareholders to maximize returns. There is no suggestion the company has broken any laws; Amazon, which started out selling books and now offers everything from tools to toys, paid an average 44 percent tax on its U.S. earnings in the last five years.

This is an examination of how Amazon set up its tax shield, and how it works.

MARKET SHARE

Amazon’s first foray abroad came in 1998, when it bought online retailers in Britain and Germany and rebranded them Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. In 2000, it launched a French website, Amazon.fr.

At first it did little to integrate these foreign units, former senior executives say. Even product purchasing – where Amazon would later squeeze huge savings by negotiating hard with suppliers – was handled independently in different markets.

“There were no real operational synergies in our early years. The units operated largely independently,” said Todd Edebohls, current CEO of recruitment website Inside Jobs, and Amazon’s Director of Business Development and Sales between 1999 and 2007.

But in late 1999, accounts for the UK business show, the UK unit’s principal activity changed from “marketing and selling of books via the Internet” to “the provision of services to other group undertakings.”

People shopping on Amazon.co.uk would now do business with a U.S. unit registered in Delaware. There were similar changes at the German business: in effect, the fast-growing European units had become fulfillment operations just to distribute packages and offer customer support. Amazon’s accounts show the bulk of its overseas revenues were now attributed to the U.S. parent.

That shift helped with a problem it faced at home.

Founded in 1995 and listed two years later, the company lost money every year until 2003. This was standard practice for a dotcom startup: Amazon focused on market share rather than profit.

But by the end of 1999 Amazon’s accumulated losses were so large – more than $1 billion – that its own accountants would not let the firm recognize them as a tax asset, because it was unclear it could ever make enough profit to use them up. Bringing foreign profits home allowed Amazon to set them against U.S. losses, so the company did not have to pay tax on overseas profits, according to Stephen Shay, a professor of tax law at Harvard University.

SERVICES, NOT BOOKS

That changed in 2003, when Amazon started making a lot more profit in the United States. There was a chance the foreign earnings would now increase its global tax bill, according to Shay, because U.S. corporate tax rates were higher than in other markets such as Britain.

Amazon turned to the tiny country of Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy has a population of 500,000 – half the size of Rhode Island – and offers a variety of advantages. It’s a member of the European Union, so businesses based there can sell across EU borders with less red tape. Then there’s the tax rate.

Luxembourg has a headline charge on corporate income of 29 percent, but under certain circumstances it will exempt income a company earns through intellectual property by up to 80 percent, a government spokesperson said. This cuts the effective tax rate to below 6 percent. Tax advisers and academics say rates close to zero can be achieved using other methods.

In June 2003, Amazon registered Amazon Services Europe SARL in Luxembourg, establishing an office in a drab grey concrete building overlooking the central bus depot. The initials stand for Societe a Responsabilite Limitee – a limited company, liable for tax.

A month later, it told clients in the UK its terms were changing. Contracts with third-party retailers who used Amazon to sell their products would no longer be handled in the United States but with the Luxembourg unit.

In June 2004, Amazon established another Luxembourg entity – Amazon Europe Holding Technologies – whose purpose was to hold shares in Amazon group companies and “to acquire … any intellectual property rights, patents, and trademarks licenses and generally to hold, to license the right to use it solely to one of its direct or indirect wholly owned subsidiaries.”

This group was set up as a “Societe en Commandite Simple” or SCS, a type of limited partnership that a Luxembourg government spokesman said is exempt from income taxes. It has not had any operational staff or premises, its registered address being the offices of a trust services company in an upmarket residential area west of Luxembourg’s old town.

A month later, this company established a third Luxembourg company, Amazon EU SARL, whose principal purpose was to “sell, auction, rent or otherwise distribute products or services of all types” via Amazon websites.

This taxable unit was to become, on paper at least, the supplier of all goods and services to Amazon’s European customers.

FROM NEVADA TO LUXEMBOURG

To be tax efficient, though, Amazon needed to shift the profit this unit would make into its untaxed parent. The easiest way to do this was for Amazon EU SARL to pay Amazon Europe Holding Technologies a fee to license the Amazon technology it would use to sell things.

There was just one problem: Amazon Europe Holding Technologies had no technology to license. Amazon’s patents – including the Amazon brand and its ‘1-click’ ordering software – were held by Amazon Technologies Inc, a unit registered in Nevada, Patent and Trademark Office records show.

In early 2005, Amazon did an inter-company deal that solved this problem.

Exact details of the arrangement have never been made public and Amazon declined to clarify them. Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak told analysts on a conference call a few weeks afterwards that the deal to create the Luxembourg operation involved shifting “certain operating assets” offshore and that it would boost the group’s 2005 tax bill by $58 million but “beneficially impact our effective tax rate over time.”

Amazon’s Luxembourg arrangements have helped it pay an average tax rate of 5.3 percent on overseas income over the past five years, less than a quarter of the average rate across its major foreign markets.

Company accounts show that since 2005, Amazon Europe Holding Technologies started to make payments to Amazon Technologies Inc in Nevada of up to 230 million euros ($300 million) each year. At the same time it received up to 583 million euros each year from its European affiliates.

The difference stayed in Luxembourg.

Had Amazon remitted all that to the United States and then paid the headline U.S. corporate income tax rate on it, the firm would have incurred taxes of more than $700 million. But it has not and the deal has allowed Amazon’s Luxembourg unit to accrue tax-free cash worth more than $2 billion.

Historically, such inter-company payments might have been treated as a taxable dividend under U.S. tax law, but a provision introduced in 1997 known as ‘check-the-box’ allowed companies to have them disregarded by the IRS. Senator Levin, a Democrat, is among many U.S. politicians who want this loophole rescinded.

“HEADQUARTERS OF NIGHT LIFE”

For Amazon’s tax-free money-making machine to work, it had to show it had more than a nameplate in Luxembourg.

To benefit from favorable taxation, the Grand Duchy says firms “must ensure that they give adequate substance to their presence in the country in terms of both logistics and staff.” At the end of 2005, Amazon had just a dozen staff there. If tax departments around the continent were to recognize the arrangement, Amazon needed a meaningful corporate presence.

In February 2006, it transferred ownership of its UK, German and French businesses to Amazon EU SARL, and ownership of its UK and French web domains to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies. It also moved some U.S. executives to Luxembourg, hired more locals and began to call Amazon EU its European headquarters.

Filings show that in December 2006, the group relocated its Luxembourg operating units into the rented building on Plaetis Steet, a stone’s throw from the English and Irish bars that lead the city-state’s tourist office to describe the Grund and neighboring Clausen as the “Headquarters of Luxembourg’s night life.”

CASH PILE BUILDS

As the cash built up in Amazon Europe Holding Technologies, the firm started to lend to Amazon EU SARL. Besides funding international expansion, this has generated up to 45 million euros a year in interest since 2005 – all untaxed.

Today, Amazon calls its 300-person Luxembourg operation the nerve-centre of an operation which employs tens of thousands of people across the continent. It expanded into a new building, opened by Luxembourg’s Finance Minister, Luc Frieden, in October.

“All the strategic functions for our business in Europe are based in Luxembourg,” Amazon’s head of public policy, Andrew Cecil, told UK parliamentarians in November.

At home in the United States, though, the Internal Revenue Service seems unconvinced.

Amazon disclosed in October 2011 that the IRS wanted $1.5 billion in unpaid taxes. It has declined to say exactly what transactions the charge relates to but said it was linked to “transfer pricing with our foreign subsidiaries” over a seven-year period from 2005.

“We disagree with the proposed adjustments and intend to vigorously contest them,” Amazon said at the time. “If we are not able to resolve these proposed adjustments … we plan to pursue all available administrative and, if necessary, judicial remedies.”

Shay, the Harvard professor who contributed to a recent Congressional committee investigating tax avoidance, said the fact the Luxembourg unit charged a much higher price than it paid for the right to license Amazon intellectual property could open the company to an investigation into whether it is engaging in abusive transfer pricing.

“The price originally paid to the U.S. for the rights is something the IRS should want to look at,” he said.

Transfer pricing is the way corporations trade goods or services between their units. Many multinationals use it.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which lays down the rules on transfer pricing, stipulates that it should not be used to shift profits from high tax jurisdictions to low tax jurisdictions.

The IRS declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Barr in San Francisco; Edited by Sara Ledwith and Simon Robinson)

Source

A Map of Muslim Protests Around the World

John Hudson 10:11 AM ET

Hundreds of slaughtered civilians isn’t a "huge number" for Obama

image

United States, Washington: US President Barack Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 30, 2012. (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Published: 31 January, 2012, 22:08

On Monday afternoon, Barack Obama became the first president to host a virtual town hall live on the Internet.

While that might be a feat worthy of the record books, President Obama did something else during his address that America has become accustomed to: he lied to the world.

Speaking Monday during a live web-chat hosted by Google, the president took on a series of issues submitted by the American people. Over the span of 45 minutes, President Obama addressed the Stop Online Piracy Act while refusing to side with either end of the argument, admitted to the world that he isn’t all that swell of a dancer and took a query from a professional puppeteer. In between ignoring the real issues or offering any sort of solid solution to the nation’s biggest problems, the president did put something rather important out for the world to ponder: America’s ongoing drone missions aren’t really all that bad.

If you ask anyone outside of the Oval Office — or especially America — they might tell you otherwise.

Tackling a question posed on drone strikes, President Obama defended the ongoing missions on Monday, saying they were necessary to target terrorists in a most effective manner. “For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military action than the ones we’re already engaging in,” the president said on the topic of drones. While an argument could easily be made that operating drone missions in lieu of putting boots on the ground is best for the US Armed Forces, the president put a lot on the line Monday when he downplayed the result of the strikes.

Those drone attacks, carried out by unmanned aircraft controlled thousands of miles away, don’t do a lot of harm, said the president. According to Obama, drones had

 “not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” and he added that it’s “important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.”

How small is that not-so huge number? If you ask anyone outside of the American intelligence community, they’ll tell you it is in the hundreds.

But what’s a few hundred civilian deaths, right?

Obama suggested that continuing the drone program would not be detrimental to the safety of foreign citizens, but studies conducted outside of the US say otherwise. Last summer, the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism argued that since America began drone strikes, at least 385 civilians had been executed in US-led attacks. Of those statistics, the Bureau added that around half of the dead were children under the age of 18.

If you don’t take the word of foreign reporter’s, even American intelligence can confirm that the “not a huge number” statistic might be a bit of an exaggeration. One senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity added to CNN last year that CIA drone strikes had taken the lives of 50 civilians in all. As drone strikes go unreported and deaths unaccounted for, the actual number, unfortunately, is probably much higher than what either the CIA or the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can come up with. In a single strike last March, 26 Pakistanis were killed during a US strike over Islamabad. Once all deaths were accounted for, it was revealed that over a dozen of the deaths in that single raid were suffered by innocent civilians.

When the Bureau of Investigative Journalism released their findings last year, they said that the number of civilians killed in US drone strikes were probably 40 percent higher than what the US was actually reporting. Between 2004 and 2011, they put the estimate of civilian deaths at a figure of 385, but added in the research that the toll could actually come close to tallying 775 casualties.

Which, if you ask President Obama, is not a huge number.

If 775 isn’t a huge number, than 56 is practically a fraction. That’s the number of children executed by US drones in the first 20 months of the Obama administration.

“Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many,” responded Unicef to the news at the time.

In 2009 alone, almost 600 civilians were killed on the ground in Afghanistan, and the United Nations put 60 percent of that figure as a direct result of airstrikes, drone or otherwise. In Pakistan, civilians say they are terrified of the robotic planes and the damage that they have already done. “There was not a single Taliban militant in Pakistan before 9/11 but since we joined this war, we are facing acts of terrorism, bombing and drone strikes,” Movement for Justice leader Imran Khan told the press in 2011.

In Libya, where the United States never even engaged in an official war, according to Obama, American troops launched 145 drone strikes in an attempt to oust the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in a matter of months. As with most drone missions, the Department of Defense has not released any official statistics on what casualties were caused by the strikes.

Regardless of what damage a drone strike can have on enemy insurgents, experts say that the toll visited on civilians is several times that of militants. In a 2009 report from the Brookings Institute, Senior Fellow Daniel L Byman wrote that “for every militant killed, 10 or so civilians also died.”

In Pakistan where drone strikes have become practically commonplace, civilians are terrified that they will become the next accidental target of American aircraft. Saadullah, a teenage boy who spoke with a BBC reporter last year, lost both of his legs in drone strikes. Three of his relatives, all civilians, have also been killed by American strikes. Asghar Khan, an elder in Islamabad that also spoke to BBC, said three of his relatives were also shot down in airstrikes.

“My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008,” said Khan. “They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban.”

A decade after the US began so-called cooperation with Pakistani intelligence, anti-American sentiments continue to grow as do the number of casualties. “When we intervene in people’s countries to chase small cells of bad guys, we end up alienating the whole country and turning them against us,” counterterrorism expert David Kilcullen tells the Brookings Institute.

Now as the US puts surveillance drones over the skies of Iraq even after that war has officially ended, yet another country is becoming concerned that drones will drop bombs on their own civilians. “We hear from time to time that drone aircraft have killed half a village in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the pretext of pursuing terrorists,” 37-year-old café owner Hisham Mohammed Salah told the New York Times just this week. “Our fear is that will happen in Iraq under a different pretext.”

Under the Pentagon’s new revised budget, the US will phase out around 100,000 military staffers while adding droves of drones to its already established arsenal of robotic planes. Will drones soon become the United States’ not-so-secret weapon and phase out its Armed Forces personnel entirely? It’s not out of the question. After all, a drone strike authorized by Obama last year led to the death of two American citizens with alleged terrorist ties.

Don’t worry, though. Obama says these things are kept on a tight leash. Who actually pulls on that is as good of a guess as anyone’s, though. In November, the Wall Street Journal wrote that the “signature” strikes that account for most of the CIA’s drone missions only end up on the desk of the president after they are carried out. The US must only inform Pakistan of those strikes, by the way, if they believe the death toll will exceed 20.

Which really isn’t that big of a number either.

Source – RT

Soros Mouthpiece Calls On Google To Police “Conspiracy Theories”

image

Stanford scholar wants search engines to flag global warming, vaccine skepticism as thought crimes

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Former fellow of George Soros’ Open Society and current Stanford University scholar Evgeny Morozov has called on Google and other search engines to become thought crime enforcers, by providing warnings about websites that contain “conspiracy theories” such as the belief, held by a majority of Americans, that global warming is not primarily man-made.

Morozov, whose biography confirms him as a well-connected insider, decries in a Slate piece how the Internet is a useful tool for “People who deny global warming” as well as “the anti-vaccination movement,” calling on Google to provide a “socially responsible curated treatment” that would marginalize such beliefs by amending search results.

His solution is to, “Nudge search engines to take more responsibility for their index and exercise a heavier curatorial control in presenting search results for issues like “global warming” or “vaccination.” Google already has a list of search queries that send most traffic to sites that trade in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories; why not treat them differently than normal queries? Thus, whenever users are presented with search results that are likely to send them to sites run by pseudoscientists or conspiracy theorists, Google may simply display a huge red banner asking users to exercise caution and check a previously generated list of authoritative resources before making up their minds.”

Morozov describes the potential that such a move will be judged as Google “shilling for Big Pharma or for Al Gore” as “a risk worth taking”.

This represents a similar argument to Cass Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration,” an effort by Obama’s information czar to slap government warnings on controversial websites (including those claiming that exposure to sunlight is healthy). In a widely derided white paper, Sunstein called for political blogs to be forced to include pop ups that show “a quick argument for a competing view”. He also demanded that taxes be levied on dissenting opinions and even suggested that outright bans on certain thoughts should be enforced.

Giving companies like Google, which has grown to virtually become the gatekeeper of the entire Internet itself and is already engaging in SOPA-like acts of censorship, the power to denote which political and scientific positions are acceptable and which are fringe “conspiracy theories” is an insult to free thinking and smacks of Chinese-style thought control.

Morozov’s argument is also completely undermined by the fact that the two so-called fringe “conspiracy theories” he forwards as being in need of Google’s thought crime control, skepticism about global warming and the dangers of vaccines, are views held by millions of Americans and are not “fringe” at all.

According to the most recent polls, less than half of Americans now believe that global warming is caused by human activity, a number that has been slipping for the past several years.

In addition, polls show that a quarter of Americans, some 75 million of them, believe that vaccines are unsafe and can cause autism. To characterize this as a minority conspiracy belief is like labeling Catholicism as a doctrine of a tiny fringe.

At best, views about global warming and the safety of vaccines can be described as being split, but to claim that skepticism over man-made climate change and the dangers of inoculations are “kooky” fringe conspiracy beliefs, as Morozov does in his article, is brazenly inaccurate and exposes the agenda-driven bias of his rhetoric.

This is further illustrated by the reader comments, which almost universally deride Morozov and attack his argument as being a thinly veiled demand for Internet censorship.

“The day Google starts doing things like this is the day I find a new search engine,” writes one.

“So, you are a supporter of internet censorship? Only of information that you disagree with, of course. So I assume Slate and NAF did not support the recent action regarding SOPA?” adds another.

Morozov’s rhetoric is merely one aspect of the wider move to turn the Internet into an echo chamber of establishment propaganda, drowning out alternative voices to the benefit of large pharmaceutical companies who make billions from selling risky vaccines and scientific bodies whose very survival depends upon the global warming myth being upheld.

It represents another effort to win an information war the establishment is currently losing, as Hillary Clinton herself admitted, by not just creating a new Orwellian Internet Ministry of Truth, as Bill Clinton demanded, but by ascribing this role to the very gatekeeper of the Internet itself – Google.

*********************

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.

Source

%d bloggers like this: