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Sputnik talked about a report that Google employees had attempted to modify search results with Dr. Binoy Kampmark, Senior Lecturer from RMIT University in Melbourne.
Sputnik: What’s your take on this recent report about Google employees attempting to alter search results? Do you think that this practice is widespread at Google?
Dr. Binoy Kampmark: Google has positioned itself as a utopia of technological awareness and knowledge, a supposedly transparent world, accessible to all. There is only one problem: Google is the one facilitating that access. To that end, it makes deals with states on what can be found or what can be depicted (Google maps is a good case-in-point), and it is hardly surprising to know that its staff adjusts search results. The search algorithm has also been found to be susceptible to manipulation.
Sputnik: How dangerous is the prospect of Google becoming politicized?
Dr. Binoy Kampmark: Very. Google provides platforms and means, and while it is harsh to hold Google responsible for the information woes critics have with it, it is also a huge corporation that has its own agendas, ideals and programs. To have such power over information and knowledge is bound to make it susceptible to abuse, as has already has been.
Sputnik: What can be done to prevent this?
Dr. Binoy Kampmark: Apart from more regulation over the direct influence Google has, which might lead to accusations of censorship, a method of attempting to control Google’s influence and susceptibility to politicization is to reduce its sheer influence. Social media firms fall into the same basket. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has expressed the view that an antitrust suit should be deployed against the likes of Google. In other words, it should be broken up, and given similar treatment as to what happened to Standard Oil in 1911.
There are also legal moves to compel Google to respect privacy — the imposition of the right to forget rules and data protection laws in the European Union is one notable example.
Sputnik: 20 years after Google’s creation, how vital has it become for users and what dangers does this create?
Dr. Binoy Kampmark: Google has enormous aspirations and has become vital as an information provider. But it has also created its own invasive phenomenon, enabling, for instance, education institutions to do things on the cheap, fostering a googlification phenomenon. This, in its own way, resists change. The danger of using Google is that it creates an assumption that what is not there is not real or genuine, and that what is found via the search engine is authentic. Users are losing the tendency to be critical of the source.
Sputnik: What’s your take on the reports about Google’s links to law enforcement agencies, namely the FBI?
Dr. Binoy Kampmark: Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 made it clear that the Silicon Valley giants have links to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The NSA, for instance, taps into google searches and user information. While there are strong denials to that end, it is a salutary lesson that Google cooperates with the authorities in countries when needed. Business is business, and the Google state has become dangerously expansive.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.