Google’s dirty – maybe illegal – trick with “users”

I long had trouble with Google and the rest of the internet companies openly censoring content. On the other hand I do support the rights of private companies to do business as they please. I also aggressively censor my own blog from comments I subjectively deem worthless. So this contradiction needs to be solved.

At first, I fully recognize the right of a TV channel or newspaper to control its content. I can’t just walk into MSNBC or New York Times and make them publish what I want. They made a business on selling one type of content and some people choose to buy it, or at least consume it with advertisements. This is no different from what I do in the blog. Granted, NYT is bigger than my blog, but it’s bigger because more people watch it. If I’d have 1M visitors a day, I could monetize it and afford a staff to grow and finally compete with NYT. If I fail to, it’s simply because I’m not good enough.

So I say that NYT has the same rights as I do. If you are “censored” from NYT or my blog, just start your own and beat us on the free market.

The reason why Google is different is not that it’s “too big” or even “monopolist”. Monopolies were broken before without government action. The problem is that Google circumvent media laws and media market consequences by a shady – and I believe illegal – trick. You see both NYT and I am are responsible for the content we publish. If we publish copyrighted or slanderous material, we face criminal or civil lawsuit. Here is an example what happens if a media company publishes damaging fake news.

If we merely publish sloppy, worthless, hateful or not illegal but disgusting hit pieces, we both face market backslash. I wouldn’t have many followers left if someone would catch me that my “how to get to the top 0.5% in PUBG” post was a factual lie, I hired someone to play my account with normal strategy and “skillz”. Same if I’d be caught being paid by the Archeage team to write nice things about their game.

These are costs on business. We need to put resources into fact-checking and must pass on shady offers to post knowingly harmful things for money. Google is a clever scheme to avoid these same laws and business costs and gain unfair advantage against the rest of the media. What do I mean? NYT and Google both have authors who make posts. They both pay them money for doing so – assuming they are satisfied with their content. They both have editors/moderators who decide which post can go into publication and which can not, who gets paid and who gets reprimanded. So in reality, they are equal newspapers. However Google disguises its author staff as “users” to avoid any kind of liability if the content is subject to lawsuit or market backslash.

If NYT publishes a smear or abuses copyright, they can be sued. If Google publishes the very same content to the last bit all the victim can do is sending a takedown complaint and then maybe sue the author who is likely unable to pay anything even if he can be located (good luck suing someone with the only contact information is lkel445ffdg@hotmail.cn). This is completed by the search engine that acts as a table of contents and guarantees that their content always reaches the audience, regardless of takedown. If the libel or copyright infringement of lkel445ffdg@hotmail.cn is taken down, an hour later lkel446ffdg@hotmail.cn will post the same thing and people find it instantly because it’s topped on Google search.

Neither the NYT, nor me can defeat Google because they cheat. We are bound by the libel and copyright laws and they are dodging it. I believe a lawsuit should be ran against them claiming that they are responsible for all libel and copyright infringement happening on Youtube or Blogger or whatever site they own, because if the author is paid, disciplined or fired at pleasure of the company, he is an “employee” or “contractor” and not a “user”. If Google claims that “we are just a tech company carrying signal” then make them do that instead of exercising editorial control over the content.

Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

15 thoughts on “Google’s dirty – maybe illegal – trick with “users””

  1. No, you’re completely wrong. Google doesn’t have ‘authors’ because it isn’t a publisher: when you write a blog post, you don’t have to send it to Google editorial staff for approval for publishing – you are publishing it /yourself/. You are not employed nor paid-by-contract by Google for your blog posts, unlike the NYT writers you liken yourself to.

    Google Blogger provides you with a free soapbox and a free megaphone, and does not exert any editorial control over what you post. Hence, any fallout caused by your postings is up to you yourself – up to and including termination of service.

    …which leads to an interesting question: Considering how much you dislike morons, slackers, and leeches – why don’t you have your own site? Why are you freeloading off other people’s services? Why is there no https://blog.greedygoblin.com?

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  2. So what you are saying is basically what Alladin did to Jaffar in epomynous Disney movie.
    You want to be the ultimate genie (information control system)? Here is a nice pair of shackles and a lamp (liability for what is posted in your sphere of control)!
    Hmmm…. Disney’s Alladin as a visionary commentary of political and cultural climate 30 years down the line? Weirder things have happened 😀

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  3. @Druur: except it DOES have an editorial staff, they just call them “moderators” who take down what they arbitrarily don’t like.
    Authors ARE paid after the ads placed at their articles/videos at pleasure of Google. Google pays as much as they want, it’s their way or the highway, which is the definition of salary.

    The rest is smokescreen that has not been tested in court and should be.

    The reason why there is no blog.greedygoblin.com is in the post: I would still be responsible for the content, both legally and market-wise. Why there is no http://www.totallynotgevlon.com which is a “neutral carrier” which happens to have one user notgevlon15435.hotmail.cn who posts stuff I absolutely take no responsibility for? Because I’m not a dirty punk who wants to make money by spreading fake news and stealing intellectual property.

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  4. A) you did not mention the safe harbor act – this should have been the beef of your post
    B) You have an emergent pattern of profit+oppertunity = guilty, this is not only lazy, sloppy but also..
    C) slanderous – falcon after getting “fired” could have easily sued you given that your confirmation bias is blinding you to the lack of substantiation required to actually make safe claims

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  5. @gajarell:
    A) if we assume that Google found a safe harbor, then it should be abused by everyone. NYT should fire all its journalists and just make them “users” on totallynotNYT.com Again: my claim is that “censorship” constitutes editorial control over the content
    B) Google doesn’t have “opportunity”, they are doing it quite blatantly by removing any remotely conservative author, making their content openly left-leaning.
    C) care to quote any claim of mine about Falcon that you find sueable? I’d like to remind you that all of my “claims” about him were quotes of Sion (which is kind of ironic, I’m doing exactly what Google do, using Sion as my “user”)

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  6. Google and Facebook are working/colluding with leftwing Media Matters to design their filters for “fake news”. Not that I am a media law expert, but that should be enough to get them designated as publisher/editor and also susceptible to monopoly/cartel challenges. But never expect any politician to lead on this issue. They will only respond when public outrage gets high enough and it becomes a vote winner.

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  7. @Gevlon
    You were advised to read the Safe Harbor act by @gajarell. You really ought to do so before replying. You’re a smart person and it’s usually obvious that you’ve done your homework, but this article feels very hasty and incomplete.

    >If NYT publishes a smear or abuses copyright, they can be sued.
    Under U.S. law, newspapers aren’t liable for defamation that occurs in Op-Ed columns. Even if the material is openly and obviously libelous, you can’t even get an injunction to stop them from publishing it. Brandreth v Lance.

    >NYT should fire all its journalists and just make them “users” on totallynotNYT.com
    If Paul Krugman declares Donald Trump to be a scroundrel, then NYT doesn’t need to pull off some weird online-contributor gimmick in order to avoid getting sued for libel. Donald Trump *can’t* sue NYT for publishing or hosting the column. It doesn’t matter whether or not NYT paid Paul Krugman for writing the article. Trump must sue Krugman for writing it. NYT is liable only if they intentionally report falsehoods as *news*.

    Please note that this isn’t true across the globe. Commonwealth nations use stricter standards; publishers there are subject to libel suits even for vox populi material. But we’re talking about Google and DMCA here; US law applies.

    NYT pays its editors to review stories so that it can maintain journalistic standards (i.e. it wants to distinguish itself from TMZ and Buzzfeed). You spend time researching and fact-checking your posts because you want to maintain your reputation as a clever analyst of video games. Google doesn’t bother because it’s so huge that it doesn’t *need* to deliver accurate or reliable material.

    Youtube content creators have often complained about Google’s laziness (e.g. major channel takedowns and reaction video bullshit). If many prominent people left Youtube then Google might be motivated to hire a QA team. They tried to crowdsource the problem with their moronic Youtube Heroes initiative. But for now they can basically ignore the problem and sleep on piles of money.

    > If Google claims that “we are just a tech company carrying signal” then make them do that instead of exercising editorial control over the content.
    Read section (c)(2)(A) of https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230 . Editorial censorship is considered to be a legitimate activity. It doesn’t matter whether or not the material is actually offensive. It doesn’t matter if the censorship is applied overwhelmingly against conservative users and ideas. Things would change if someone leaks a Google memo which states “Attn all staff: please censor right-wing ideas but pretend that it’s for decency reasons” — but until that happens, Google benefits from the *presumption* of good faith.

    > if the author is paid, disciplined or fired at pleasure of the company, he is an “employee” or “contractor” and not a “user”.
    This part is correct. Google is protected only if the material originates from a third party. If pewdiepie is recategorized as a Youtube employee then Youtube would be in trouble. But there’s a significant amount of legislation and caselaw which militates *against* viewing pewdiepie as an employee. And if that change happened then the Internet would quickly become very boring.

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  8. A) Wether or not parts of google (like yt) should be considered safe harbor or wether or not this entire idea of opening a plattform to users and deflecting liability is good or bad is an interesting debate and i would enjoy reading more about the pros (like allowing people to find a following in the first place) and cons

    B) “Google disguises its author staff as “users” to avoid any kind of liability if the content is subject to lawsuit or market backslash.”, while that could be benefitial and they might be able to do it – unless you provide evidence, i consider this a chemtrail-level-theory

    C) “Falcon ended his cyberbully campaign”, “the corrupted Falcon”, ‘CCP Falcon is “corrupted or simply sadistic”? Yes’, ‘Harassment is widespread in EVE and Paul “CCP Falcon” … champions it himself.’, ‘as bad journalist as Falcon is bad community manager’ – this was out of the 10 posts with and after you quit eve – i can grab more of those if you want me to, including (paraphrased) “he (and all of ccp) would sabotage me when i come back (i will get disconnected)”

    In general and esp given your natural tendency to paranoia providing hard evidence and fully dissecting cases would give you a more well rounded basis and avoid just beeing dismissed easily based on “just the crazy goblin”.

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  9. @edwardqjones: I of course know that opinions can’t be libelious. But Google is free to post false facts, like a falsified video that poses to be security footage while actually made with actors AND if the falsehood is revealed, Google would still run free while NYT would go down for the VERY SAME video.

    section (c)(2)(A) is classic regulatory capture. They put it there exactly for this. I however see that there is no legal case against Google, all newspapers should lobby changing it or they are gone. There is no hope for them to win in this battle where they must enforce standards and Goggle doesn’t while can do the same basic activity (pay authors, publish content, get advertiser money)

    No, if the legislation would change, the internet wouldn’t become boring. As soon as Google stops excercising editorial control over the content, pewdiepie would stop being an employee. But taking lawyering away: do you think that pewdiepie is NOT a youtube employee? I mean youtube can fire him, cut his pay without him being able to do anything but quiting and picking up a new job which would not include making videos. Maybe the correct legal approach would be pewdiepie himself (or other “user”) suing Google asking to be recategorized as employee.

    @gajarell: you are nitpicking on intent, which can save them on court, but legislation should focus on cutting down bad actions. For example you must adhere to fire safety regulations in case someone with bad intent comes along and set fires. Do we agree that Google is sitting on a loophole that is crying for malicious activity?

    If those things aren’t true, why didn’t Falcon or CCP sue me? Why didn’t they sent a lawyer’s letter demanding me to stop libeling them? Why didn’t they complain at Google to ban my blog? Why didn’t they even ban me from the game?! Why did they sat instead like shit in the grass hoping that it goes away? Hint – because these are true and if I was forced by a lawsuit to dig for more evidence, they would be probably in jail.

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  10. @Gevlon
    >Google is free to post false facts
    Please read the statute. If Google creates the video, or hires someone else to create it, or one of their staff members uploads it, or if they tell someone else to upload it — then they’re behaving as an internet content provider and they’re no longer protected under §230.

    >a falsified video that poses to be security footage while actually made with actors AND if the falsehood is revealed, Google would still run free while NYT would go down for the VERY SAME video.
    That has already happened. BigGovernment.com hosted the ACORN prostitution videos. NYT reported on the story, noting that ACORN staff had behaved very badly. NYT eventually issued an apology and partial retraction, after it discovered how heavily the videos had been edited.

    NYT didn’t “go down”. They weren’t bankrupted by legal fees. Their reactions were entirely voluntary. They weren’t handcuffed by the local sheriff and compelled to retract the story. They took a small hit to their reputation (for failing to do hardcore forensic/investigative journalism on the tapes) and a larger hit to their reputation (for being tardy in reporting the story, and generally appearing out-of-touch with modern news). That’s all.

    ACORN sued the undercover filmmakers. ACORN tried to sue the US federal government for illegally withdrawing ACORN’s funding. ACORN considered suing Fox News, because some of its news coverage had been openly defamatory (i.e. reporting allegations as fact; declaring ACORN staff to be criminals before any trial had occurred). ACORN didn’t bother trying to sue BigGovernment.com or NYTimes, because neither organization had committed libel. Under §230, websites are not responsible for the veracity of material created by third parties, and that protection applies to online newspapers just as strongly as it applies to Youtube.

    >section (c)(2)(A) is classic regulatory capture.
    Thought-terminating cliché. You’re better than this!

    They were facing a dismal choice. The true “regulatory capture” path (being pushed heavily by RIAA and MPAA) was a policy of strict liability. If xXxArthasDK69xXx uploads TheAvengers-CamRip.mp4 to Youtube, and Google doesn’t immediately take it down, and at least one person gets to watch the movie illegally, then Marvel can sue Google for a trillion dollars. At the time that the act was passed (1996) Youtube didn’t even exist, and there were very few web businesses with enough money to even talk to Congressmen (AOL lol). Be glad that we don’t live in that world, because Youtube would never have existed under a regime of strict liability.

    Common carrier regulation wouldn’t have been much better. Websites would have been shielded from liability so long as they maintained a complete hands-off policy. They would be unable to exercise any editorial filtering at all; the only permissible intervention would be takedowns of copyrighted material (after being served with a court order). This would also be a lousy world to live in. Every single website would quickly fill up with spam, malware, child porn, etc. No matter where you go, it would always look like the bastard love-child of Craigslist and 4chan. Mainstream advertisers would be unwilling to touch such a cesspit, and services such as Youtube couldn’t exist (due to a lack of ad revenue). Any website owner who tried to clean up his site could immediately be slapped with a trillion-dollar lawsuit. You yourself could be sued if I sneakily include a torrent link when replying to one of your blog posts – unless you decide to permanently disable moderation.

    §230 has been a boon to free speech on the Internet. It was a surprising nugget of gold, nestled in the middle of a censorship-laden piece of legislation. Dismissing the whole thing as regulatory capture — because one large organization is currently abusing its Good Samaritan proviso — is asinine.

    >No, if the legislation would change, the internet wouldn’t become boring. As soon as Google stops excercising editorial control over the content
    This is naive. Youtube can survive without pewdiepie, but it cannot survive without advertisers. Internet content providers wouldn’t stop censoring; they’d simply block *speech*. Comments would be disabled on all videos. Video uploads would be allowed only from trusted sources, and each one would need to be manually screened by a team of expert censors. Youtube (assuming that it exists at all in this alternate world) would become a cheapskate version of HBO.

    You might argue that Youtube could survive as a pirate-utopia. It could be filled with scams and hate speech and porn, and yet it would stay afloat by selling ad space to ransomware installers and penis-enlargement pills. Intrepid users could wade through the flood of bullshit in order to find cool music and comedy and politics. But you’re forgetting one key point: without §230, website operators would be liable for the content and consequence of *ads* that they display! https://www.eff.org/files/ma-v-village-voice.pdf If those penis-enlargement pills don’t actually work, then say hello to a lawsuit.

    Let’s return to the example of your blog. POOF! We’ve magically changed the law. You’re now faced with a choice: allow your blog comments to turn into 4chan; spend 10 hours per day moderating comments and painstakingly reviewing each one to ensure that it contains no traces of falsehood or defamation; or just disable the comments section entirely. The choice is obvious. Most website operators would do the same thing, and public discourse would be curtailed.

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  11. @edwardqjones: “If Google creates the video, or hires someone else to create it, or one of their staff members uploads it, or if they tell someone else to upload it ” – this is exactly what I claim except they do it covertly, by disguising the hired staff as “users”. I believe this would not survive scrutiny:
    – a user is paying for a service, staff is paid
    – a user selects a service at his pleasure, staff is hired and fired at the pleasure of the company
    – a user chooses what content he creates, staff is supervised by managers

    Currently the youtube “users” are paid, they have nowhere else to go but Google can find other “user” at no time and they excercise this by recruiting and firing “bad performer” and the content is constantly supervised by literal staffers (who act as managers)

    NYT reported the ACORN story, not created or hosted it themselves. They did not claim to own the camera or anywhere vouch for its veracity. They merely reported the claims of other people no different from “Nancy Pelosi wants President Donald W Bush impeached”.

    More importantly you admit that they got reputation hit, something that Google avoids. You wouldn’t say “Google stated in a video”, you would say “pewdiepie said in a video”, despite the ultimate decision about “pewdiepie is on Youtube” and “that particular video not taken down” there was in the hand of Google staffers.

    You are presenting two extreme false narratives. Also, you give out your own political demand as moral absolute “Be glad that we don’t live in that world, because Youtube would never have existed under a regime of strict liability.” My point is exactly that Youtube shouldn’t exist, it’s an evil politically censoring gatekeeper with the goal of dominating political speech, no different from the literal censorship office of China, except it answers to the Globalist/Deep State Party instead of the Communist Party of China.

    Let me show what kind of regulation I’d have for content creators and common carriers:
    – A content creator (like myself) is responsible for the content and all of it. If you don’t like my content, you are free to not consume my content. If you wish to be heard, you are free to start your own blog, full of your thoughts and people are free to choose to read it. No, I shouldn’t be responsible for comments, the commenter – as individual content creator – would be responsible for that.

    – A carrier is not responsible for content whatsoever. They are responsible for the identification of content creators for lawsuits and permanent takedowns. So if xXxArthasDK69xXx uploads uploads TheAvengers-CamRip.mp4 or “group members needed to kill Hillary” they should be able to give out the identity of xXxArthasDK69xXx to the court order the same way that a phone company is able. So creating an account would include going to their customer support office, show ID, sign contract (practically it would be done for a trustable e-ID company office and then use that e-ID on internet contracts). This way the copyright owners can sue – not xXxArthasDK69xXx – but Jonas D. Smith, Nowhere street 5, Austin, TX for TheAvengers-CamRip.mp4 and even if they can’t get enough compensation because he is unemployed, they can get a court order to stop and next time lock him up for contempt of court.

    The carrier is responsible to make a serious and good faith identification of the user. If it fails to identify the user due to its own recklessness (for example accepting anonymous registrations, not following industry standards of identification), he owns the content.

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