Google respinge le accuse di Murdoch: “Caro Rupert, non siamo i guardiani del web”. Ecco il carteggio (DOCUMENTI)

Google replica alle accuse di Rupert Murdoch. In un messaggio pubblicato sul suo blog, Mountain View risponde punto per punto alle critiche mosse dall’amministratore delegato di News Corp, Robert Thomson, che in una lettera inviata a inizio settembre al commissario europeo per la concorrenza Joaquin Almunia aveva accusato Google di ‘gestione cinica’ e di volontà di ‘reprimere la concorrenza’. “Siamo molto popolari in Europa ma non siamo i guardiani del web, come alcuni dicono”, afferma Google, respingendo anche l’accusa di News Corp secondo cui alcuni quotidiani potrebbero fare bancarotta nei prossimi cinque anni se la capacità di Google di indicizzare i loro contenuti continuerà senza impedimenti. “Abbiamo lavorato duramente per aiutare gli editori ad avere successo online, sia in termini di nuovo pubblico sia per l’aumento dei ricavi digitali”, si difende Google.

Ecco la risposta integrale di Google:

Last week, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp sent an open letter to the European Commission complaining about Google. We wanted to share our perspective so you can judge the arguments on their merits.

News Corp:
“The Internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high quality content of enduring value.”

Google:
We agree about free expression and the importance of high quality content. Access to information in any given country, particularly news content, used to be controlled by a relatively small number of media organizations. Today, people have far greater choice. That has had a profound impact on newspapers, who face much stiffer competition for people’s attention and for advertising Euros.

Google has worked hard to help publishers succeed online — both in terms of generating new audiences and also increasing their digital revenues. Our search products drive over 10 billion clicks a month to 60,000 publishers’ websites, and we share billions of dollars annually with advertising publishing partners. We’ve also created a digital store on Android — Google Play — that lets news publishers offer their publications for purchase or subscription. We hope this will also increase their audience and digital revenues. In addition, we invest in initiatives like Google’s Journalism Fellowships, and help train thousands of journalists through our Google for Media program.

News Corp:
Google is a “platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks” and “a company that boasts about its ability to track traffic [but] chooses to ignore the unlawful and unsavoury content that surfaces after the simplest of searches”

Google:
Google has done more than almost any other company to help tackle online piracy.

Search: In 2013 we removed 222 million web pages from Google Search due to copyright infringement. The average take-down time is now just six hours. And we downgrade websites that regularly violate copyright in our search rankings.
Video: We’ve invested tens of millions of dollars in innovative technology — called ContentID — to tackle piracy on YouTube.

Google is also an industry leader in combating child sexual abuse imagery online. We use hashing technology to remove illegal imagery from all our products and from the search index. We have safe modes for both Search and YouTube that filter out inappropriate content. And we are committed to protecting our users’ security. It’s why we remove malware from our search results and other products, and protect more than 1 billion users every day from phishing and malware with our Safe Browsing warnings.

News Corp:
Google’s “power” makes it hard for people to “access information independently and meaningfully.” Google is “willing to exploit [its] dominant market position to stifle competition.”

Google:
With the Internet, people enjoy greater choice than ever before — and because the competition is just one click away online, barriers to switching are very, very low. Google is of course very popular in Europe, but we are not the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim.

Direct traffic: Huge numbers of readers go direct to news sites such as the wsj.com or thesun.co.uk.
New ways to access information: As The Economist reported last week “mobile devices have changed the way people travel the Internet. Users now prefer apps (self contained programmes on smartphones) to websites’ home pages”. In this world Google Search is an app alongside many others. The same article adds “the rise of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest … have become an important navigation system for people looking for content across the Web”. It’s why many newspapers get an increasing number of referrals from Facebook and Twitter.
Search competition: Within search Google faces a lot of competition: including Amazon for product search; Kayak and Expedia for flights; and Yelp and TripAdvisor for local information. While companies like Expedia and Yelp object to us providing direct answers to users’ questions, their revenues, profit and traffic from Google continue to grow.
And when it comes to our answers versus other websites, Larry Page, our co-founder, has always believed that the perfect search engine would “understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want.”  Initially, ten blue links were the best answer we could give.  But now we have the ability to provide direct answers to users’ queries, which is much quicker and easier for them. If you are searching for the weather, you want the weather where you are, on the results page, not just links to weather sites.  Or directions: if your query is “where is the nearest pharmacy?”, you want a map with directions, not just links to other sites.  This is especially important on mobile where screens are smaller and typing is harder.

News Corp:
“Sudden changes are made to the ranking and display of Google search results, which inevitably maximise income for Google and yet punish small companies that have become dependent on Google for their livelihood.”

Google:
Of course we regularly change our algorithms — we make over 500 changes a year.  But these changes are all about improving the user experience, not punishing small companies.  Indeed, it’s well documented that the highest-profile change to our search ranking, called “Panda”, actually reduced our advertising revenue. As Yelp, another complainant to the EC, said on a recent earnings call: “Where we have the largest communities in the U.S., we’ve seen actually an uptick as a result of the recent Google algorithmic change. They’re constantly making changes and alterations … and most of that really, on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t have a material effect”.

News Corp:
“Google has developed a “certification” process for Android-related products which allows it to delay or deny content companies and other businesses access to the mobile operating system, while giving itseIf the freedom to develop competing products.”

Google:
Android is an open-source operating system that can be used free-of-charge by anyone. You don’t need Google’s permission. If hardware manufacturers want to offer applications via Google Play, our digital apps store, we simply ask that they meet a minimum technical standard to ensure these apps run smoothly and securely across a range of Android-powered devices. This is good for users and for app developers.  Many manufacturers, including Amazon and Nokia, choose to install their own apps stores on their Android-based devices.

News Corp:
“Google is commodifying the audience of specialist publishers and limiting their ability to generate advertising revenue. Data aggregators attempt to sell audiences at a steep discount to the original source, for example, access to 75 per cent of The Wall Street Journal demographic at 25 per cent of the price, thus undermining the business model of the content creator.”

Google:
When selling their ad space, publishers can decide which partners they work with, who can buy ads on their website, and who can reach their audiences. Indeed, in a recent press release to investors, News Corp explained that it had created a private advertising exchange to limit the partners it works with to prevent exactly this kind of commoditization. Robert Thomson, News Corp’s CEO, said at the time: “The only way to reach the world’s greatest content and the most prestigious and lucrative audiences is directly through our digital properties. Third parties are no longer invited to the party”. Google works with publishers to protect their content and maximize their advertising revenues.

News Corp:
“Google routinely displays YouTube results at the top of its search pages, even if YouTube is not the original source of that content.”

Google:
A simple Google search for “videos of Robert Thomson News Corp” shows content from the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and Nasdaq ranked above anything from YouTube. We only show YouTube results when they’re relevant to a search query.

News Corp:
“The shining vision of Google’s founders has been replaced by a cynical management…”

Google:
Larry Page and Sergey Brin are still very much at the helm of Google — Larry is CEO and both remain the inspiration behind our next generation of big bets… self-driving cars, Loon, Fiber and more.

News Corp:
“Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society … the intemperate trends we are already seeing in much of Europe will proliferate.”

Google:
People probably have enough evidence to judge that one for themselves 🙂

Di seguito la lettera che Robert Thomson aveva inviato a Joaquín Almunia l’8 settembre 2014:

Dear Vice-President Almunia,

Your decision to reconsider Google’s settlement offer comes at a crucial moment in the history of the free flow of information and of a healthy media in Europe and beyond. There is no doubt that the case is one of profound significance for many media companies in Europe but also for the people of Europe, whose ability to access information, independently and meaningfully, is put at risk by the overwhelming power of Google. The company has evolved from a wonderfully feisty, creative Silicon Valley startup to a vast, powerful, often unaccountable bureaucracy, which is sometimes contemptuous of intellectual property and routinely configures its search results in a manner that is far from objective.

News Corp has significant interests in Europe, including The Times, The Sun and The Wall Street Journal Europe, and a network of local language business newswires, as well as the HarperCollins book publishing business. We are not a small company, and we do use Google products and partner with the company on various projects (it would be impossible not to given the scale and influence of Google) but our cherished content is vulnerable to exploitation. Benefitting significantly from the efforts and investments of others, Google must do more to ensure that rights are respected and that its powerful search platform is not abused to eliminate competition.

While there are many, many honorable and thoroughly professional individuals working at Google, we have learned not to be naïve about the company. The shining vision of Google’s founders has been replaced by a cynical management, which offers advertisers impressively precise data about users and content usage, but has been a platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks, all while driving more traffic and online advertising dollars to Google. A company that boasts about its ability to track traffic chooses to ignore the unlawful and unsavoury content that surfaces after the simplest of searches. Google has been remarkably successful in its ability to monetize users, but has not shown the willingness, even though it clearly has the ability, to respect fundamental property rights.

Sudden changes are made to the ranking and display of Google search results, which inevitably maximise income for Google and yet punish small companies that have become dependent on Google for their livelihood. Meanwhile, in recent months, Google has developed a “certification” process for Android-related products which allows it to delay or deny content companies and other businesses access to the mobile operating system, while giving itself the freedom to develop competing products. This development reflects the exponential evolution of Google from a company that is “open” to one that is selectively closed and willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition.

It is worth pausing for a moment to contemplate how the world of content has evolved, and why five years is an eternity in internet time. Virtually every newspaper in Europe is in the midst of upheaval, and some will surely not exist five years from now, in part because of their own flawed strategy and lack of leadership, but also because the value of serious content has been commodified by Google. The uniqueness of news sites has been undermined by aggregation of content which transfers the front page to the Google home page. Readers have been socialized into accepting this egregious aggregation as the norm. The second phase of aggregation is that of the audience. By tracking readers and exploiting its dominance in online advertising, Google is commodifying the audience of specialist publishers and limiting their ability to generate advertising revenue. Data aggregators attempt to sell audiences at a steep discount to the original source, for example, access to 75 per cent of The Wall Street Journal demographic at 25 per cent of the price, thus undermining the business model of the content creator. This process is at a relatively early stage and needs constant monitoring to ensure that abuses are halted and that there is a fair return for newspapers, publishers and other investors in original content.

Clearly this habitual appropriation of content and audiences does serious commercial damage, but there is also a profound social cost. The internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high quality content of enduring value. Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society. There will be no shortage of opinions, in fact, opinions will proliferate, but they will be based on ever flimsier foundations. The quality of discourse will inevitably deteriorate and the intemperate trends we are already seeing in much of Europe will proliferate.

“Internet idealism” is used by Google and certain other digital companies as an injudicious justification for inappropriate business practices. Specifically on search, there is clear evidence that Google systematically diverts users away from relevant sites to its own related sites for commercial reasons. Google’s illustrious founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, sagely stated that “since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious”. Unfortunately, Google no longer heeds that wisdom and warning (a search for “insidious” quickly lead to pirate sites where the film of that name can be viewed illegally). With video, Google routinely displays YouTube results at the top of its search pages, even if YouTube is not the original source of that content – the reason for that bias is that YouTube gets a cut of the revenue and takes income away from the company or person who created and posted that video.

We genuinely respect the sincere and arduous work that you have undertaken on the case, but our close examination of the proposed remedies suggests that they will not resolve existing problems yet alone deal with fast-developing challenges that will inevitably become serious issues over coming years. The company’s power increases with each passing day, so to allow it five years to fashion the future of content and to abuse its dominance in search would be a mistake of magnitude. Google will certainly be the winner, and among the losers will be those who create content and, undoubtedly, the people of Europe.

As you continue the investigation, we would be delighted to share with your team our expertise and experience in search and on other matters related to the Google case. We can provide both detail and context that would lead to a fuller understanding of the short and long-term consequences of the Commission’s profoundly important decision.

Thank you for your serious consideration.

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