Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New York Times Magazine Profile of "Google Gatekeepers"

According to an article in the most recent issue of The New York Times Magazine, Google's legal team has extraordinary power to decide which videos can be seen by audiences around the world on sites it owns such as YouTube.

The article, Google's Gatekeepers, was written by George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America.

In the piece, Rosen examines the dilemmas Google faces when confronted by government requests to censor or take down material considered illegal or "offensive" to national feelings or traditions:

"Today the Web might seem like a free-speech panacea: it has given anyone with Internet access the potential to reach a global audience. But though technology enthusiasts often celebrate the raucous explosion of Web speech, there is less focus on how the Internet is actually regulated, and by whom. As more and more speech migrates online, to blogs and social-networking sites and the like, the ultimate power to decide who has an opportunity to be heard, and what we may say, lies increasingly with Internet service providers, search engines and other Internet companies like Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook and even eBay."

"The most powerful and protean of these Internet gatekeepers is, of course, Google. With control of 63 percent of the world’s Internet searches, as well as ownership of YouTube, Google has enormous influence over who can find an audience on the Web around the world. As an acknowledgment of its power, Google has given Nicole Wong [deputy general counsel at Google] a central role in the company’s decision-making process about what controversial user-generated content goes down or stays up on YouTube and other applications owned by Google, including Blogger, the blog site; Picasa, the photo-sharing site; and Orkut, the social networking site. Wong and her colleagues also oversee Google’s search engine: they decide what controversial material does and doesn’t appear on the local search engines that Google maintains in many countries in the world, as well as on As a result, Wong and her colleagues arguably have more influence over the contours of online expression than anyone else on the planet. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:24 pm


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