Let's play a game. I'll feed you three headlines, and you tell me what two of them have in common.
- Shuttle docks with space station
- US backs Microsoft against Google complaint
- Watchdog group pans Google's policies as worst on the Web
If your guess is that two of them are unflattering toward Google
Why did I choose these three headlines? Oh, I didn't. They were the three featured headlines Sunday night on a popular news aggregator website -- under the Science/Technology category. That site? Google.
On the one hand, it's pretty cool to know that Google can be self-effacing enough to trumpet its own shortcomings as reported by third-party sources. On the other hand, it may lead one to wonder whether Google News will be censored if negative headlines continue, and they likely will.
Google's news portal was never supposed to be a megaphone for propaganda, but it also was never fashioned as a quick way to stamp the "no" out of "do no evil" in the company's goody-goody mantra.
Big G as the new Mr. Softy
Is Google the next Microsoft
Consider that third headline. There are two sides to the watchdog-group study. Privacy International does rank Google dead last in privacy policies out of 23 dot-com giants. It may be a fair knock, but then it was unearthed that a member of Privacy International's board is a Microsoft employee. Ouch. To be fair, this is one person on an advisory board that is 70 members strong. Oh, and Microsoft also scored poorly.
Still, it's a scintillating twist that even Google's media aggregator is siding with its detractor. It's the kind of stuff that sells movie rights and uncorks conspiracy theorists.
The fine line between class and stupidity
The democratization of the Web is evident in sites such as Digg.com, where the most popular stories get voted to the top. Google News takes a different approach, though it also is free of editorial judgment. The computer-generated site scours stories from more than 4,500 news sources -- including The Motley Fool -- and serves them up based on each reader's personalized interest.
Google has no problem bringing out the human touch in other features. Its AdWords paid search program screens contextual marketing ads to make sure that they are appropriate, as does rival Yahoo!
Are we getting to the point where Big G is going to comb through a sea of headlines to make sure that it is seen in a more favorable light on its own news portal? It would be a sad day if Google began omitting unflattering pieces. So it had better get used to them. The bigger the glass houses, the bigger the stones. Whether it's government censorship in China, its privacy policies, or the antitrust implications of its pending $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, something tells me that Google's name is going to be used more often in the future, and not in a flattering way.
I applaud Google's indifference. It's the right thing to do. Though, deep down inside, I wonder whether it can keep its "do no evil" mantra in a "do evil" world.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of Google News and wonders what real Google enemies are being served up as category headlines. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.