Mr. Masnick is Ostriching on Search Neutrality

June 19, 2010

Mr. Masnick of techdirt fame is putting his head in the sand, just like an ostrich does, in hopes that the danger of “search neutrality” will somehow go away as long as he manages to not see or hear anything about it.

  • Mr. Masnick’s head-in-the-sand stance is in full public view in his latest full-throated defense of Google:
    • There Is No Such Thing As Search Neutrality, Because The Whole Point Of Search Is To Recommend What’s Best
  • Since Mr. Masnick’s mind is obviously made up, let me present some information and evidence for those who remain open-minded to what is actually happening in the marketplace — concerning the lack of Google search neutrality.

First, none other than Google’s founders railed against advertising causing “insidious” bias in search results — in their famous Stanford paper on search engines — see Appendix A.

  • “The advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search results to users…”
  • “Advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results.”
  • “We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent.”
    • …But listen to Udi Manber, Google VP for Search Quality: “For something that is used so often by so many people, surprisingly little is known about ranking at Google. This is entirely our fault, and it is by design. We are, to be honest, quite secretive about what we do.”
  • So the Google evidence shows that Google’s founders don’t share Mr. Masnick’s view that the notion of search neutrality is “ridiculous,” “bizarre and misguided.”
  • They were on record of warning about its dangers from the beginning.
    • And they are upfront about being secretive even though the founders fully appreciate the dangers to the public of no transparency in search.

Second, Mr. Masnick’s blanket assertion: “The whole point of search is to be biased” completely contradicts Google’s public representations.

  • Google’s website claims: “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank.”

The search neutrality problem arises with Google because there is mounting compelling evidence that Google does in fact manipulate search results anti-competitively and in contradiction to their public representations, by favoring its own Google-owned content and disadvantaging competitors’ content.

Surely Mr. Masnick is not suggesting that documented charges of fraud, mis-representation, anti-competitive behavior are “ridiculous” and not worthy of attention or investigation?

Third, concern over search neutrality is well founded because Google:

With all due respect, Mr. Masnick’s head-in-the-sand views on search neutrality are not well thought out, argued, or documented.

  • Google’s lack of search neutrality is a very real issue that will only grow in importance and only gain more attention from law enforcement authorities.
 
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