Google abused its trust and misused its power when it blacked out its logo Jan. 18 and encouraged its millions of users base to “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” At least according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s CEO.
It seems RIAA President Cary Sherman is still steamed that Google was able to derail the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) by encouraging more than 7 million people to sign petitions opposing the legislation. He attacked Google, as well as Wikipedia, which also blacked out its site, in a New York Times op-ed published today, calling the controversy “manufactured.”
“When Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, but then exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations,” wrote Sherman.
Television networks supported the bills, but didn’t use their platform to aid SOPA, Sherman argued, adding that Google didn’t recognize the “the ethical boundary between the neutral reporting of information and the presentation of editorial opinion as fact.”
“…what the Google and Wikipedia blackout showed is that it’s the platforms that exercise the real power. Get enough of them to espouse Silicon Valley’s perspective, and tens of millions of Americans will get a one-sided view of whatever the issue may be, drowning out the other side.”
Readers, however, had no sympathy for Sherman or the RIAA. Overwhelmingly, readers supported the efforts of Google and Wikipedia to kill the bills.
“Google … can be shut down for merely linking to a site that has infringing content. A search engine finds stuff and points to it; you can't expect it to hand-check every link for illegality. And pointing the way to something illegal isn't the same as doing it!” wrote one commentor.
Techdirt also offered a brutal cut-down of Sherman's op-ed piece, calling the RIAA totally out of touch. In part:
Oh, man. Don't make me laugh. Once again, this is coming from Cary Sherman -- the master of mistruths himself. And he's really claiming that Google and Wikipedia informing the world of a dangerous bill is an "abuse of trust"? Really?!? I'd argue it was the exact opposite. It was an effort to build trust. The public trusts Google and Wikipedia to look out for their best interests, and this was a way that those sites did so -- after many, many people had raised their own concerns about these bills.
Let us know in the comments if you think it was the right thing for Google to protest SOPA.