Is the world’s largest search engine really free? And, if not, are its users? An 85-page document leaked to Breitbart argued that in order to prevent certain political events, tech companies would have to start censoring web content.
[UPDATE, 12:40PM ET: MRC President Brent Bozell has responded to this report: “This story confirms our worst fear. Contrary to Google’s public statements and what they have said to us in private discussions, Google is in the censorship business and apparently the lying business as well. We’re going to be meeting with our coalition partners immediately and we will announce next moves very soon.”]
The internal company briefing, titled, “The Good Censor,” told how the “utopian narrative” of the online world was being destroyed by users, governments, and even tech companies. The report partially blamed the adoption of an American concept of free speech by tech companies. “This free speech ideal was instilled in the DNA of the Silicon Valley startups that now control the majority of our online conversations,” the document stated.
Google’s analysis explained how a shift from that American free speech policy toward one that is more in line with the European tradition: promoting civility, dignity, and editing. The precise wording is that the European method is “favoring dignity over liberty and civility over freedom.” According to the document, Google wants a new role as a “editor and publisher” of the content that provides civility and dignity.
The document referenced section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and Google’s desire to be freed from its legal protections by resorting to a role of censorship as “editor.” Since, according to the document, free speech has become so eroded by historical events in the past 10 years, Google no longer wants to endorse a free speech policy. Some of the examples listed as erosions include the 2016 United States election which made Donald Trump president, as well as the rise of a nationalist party in Germany known as Alternative for Germany.
The briefing cited three key “leading thinkers,” including the former editor of the New Republic Franklin Foer, as well as New York Times editorial board member Sarah Jeong, who controversially tweeted about “white males” in a racist fashion. The document also used Donald Trump’s tweet about Google promoting Hillary Clinton in the search engine as a “conspiracy theory,” even though tech experts agreed that this phenomenon occured in 2016.
The juxtaposition between the European model of tech and the American model of tech was made clear: European models emphasized “well-ordered spaces for safety and civility” while American models were merely “unmediated marketplace of ideas.”
The goals of the document and, ultimately, the goals of Google, in making the shift to broader forms of censorship were listed as: 1) monetizing content through organization, 2) protecting advertisers, 3) increasing revenues, and 4) responding to calls for online regulation.