@theguardian: The Guardian view on Google: overweening power

When Google received a record $2.7bn fine from the European Union in June for abusing its search engine monopoly to promote its shopping search service, a relatively minor member of an American thinktank, the New America Foundation, posted a short statement praising the regulator, and calling on the US to follow suit.

The New America Foundation is intimately intertwined with the search firm. It has received more than $20m over its lifetime from Google and related companies and individuals. So when Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed his displeasure over the statement, the foundation moved quickly. The tussle that followed ended up with its author, Barry Lynn, departing the group, along with his entire team at the Open Markets programme.

To be clear: neither Google, nor Mr Schmidt, told New America to fire Mr Lynn or his colleagues. They did not have to.

Similarly, Google doesn’t have to ask the researchers whom it funds to write about public policy to turn in favourable articles. But it has funded, directly or indirectly, 329 such papers since 2005, according to the US-based Campaign for Accountability. More than a quarter of those funded directly by Google didn’t disclose the source of their money, according to the report.

Read the post on The Guardian







@stevekovach: [Eric Schmidt] says there’s no way Google can guarantee ads won’t appear next to inappropriate content

[Editor Charlie sez: How can Schmidt do that with his mouth while eating his foot?]

Although improvements are being made, there’s no foolproof way for Google to guarantee a brand’s ads won’t appear against questionable content on YouTube and other sites that serve Google ads, according to a top executive at the company.

Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO and current chairman of its parent company Alphabet, said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox BusinessThursday that the company “can’t guarantee” ads will not appear against content its advertisers might find inappropriate.

Read the post on Business Insider

@adland: Wikileaks shows Google’s Eric Schmidt is extra cozy with US Government

It’s November 1st. The 2016 U.S. election is now just a week away and yet with all the talk of Russia it feels more like the Cold War. The way you can tell it’s 2016 is that this is the year Wikileaks ripped the curtain back and showed us the toxic beast behind the curtain is not in fact a Wizard but a bunch of elitist political hacks running the Democratic party who out of a twisted allegiance to the Clinton Family, not only walked away from a sure thing with Bernie Sanders but actively colluded to ensure he would fail to get the nomination.

The political and media view of Wikileaks is a far cry from 2008. Back then it was championed for exposing secrets of the war in Afghanistan. Now that its sights on American politics in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, the same people who viewed the organization as a free speech champion now see it as a toxic pariah meddling in the election. Wikileaks’ function and purpose haven’t changed, only the subject matter. If anything Wikileaks is apolitical in that regard.

But if social media and online living has taught us anything it’s that anyone can become a target. This is true for Hulk Hogan as it is for Hillary Clinton and all who emailed John Podesta. Which brings me to Google’s Eric Schmidt. He once famously said “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” In the remaining week before the US election with so many more Podesta emails to be released, it will be interesting to see if that quote doesn’t come back to haunt him.

Read the post on Adland.tv

@jacknicas: More Equal Than Others: Google Insiders Control the Company

Every Google stockholder meeting is like Groundhog Day–shareholders complain about executive compensation and try to elect their own board, then they are told that the board under the control of Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and Larry Page wins.  That’s because Google is a banana republic.  Schmidt, Brin and Page hold shares that give them 10 votes per share while all other stockholders get the traditional one share one vote.  The insiders always win.

Chris Castle posted last year about the 2015 Google shareholder meeting:

The futility of stockholder votes at Google became obvious at the Google stockholder meeting last week where ordinary stockholders were decimated by the 10:1 voting power of the co-emperors.  (The transcript is available on Seeking Alpha.)  The emperors’ slate of candidates for board of directors were elected, banana republic style.  Five shareholder resolutions were presented by the disenfranchised stockholders and all five were voted down, a foregone conclusion before the resolutions were even presented to the emperors’ hand picked and compliant board of directors.

So why would Google’s emperors create this rubber stamp culture for what is likely the most powerful media multinational in the history of commerce?  One reason is because the law allows them to do so–they do it because they can.  If our elected officials cannot summon the courage to break up Google, they might be able to find the fortitude necessary to change the corporate law to ban the ability of insiders to decimate shareholders.  If you’re looking for a silver bullet worthy of Eugene O’Neill, that might be pretty close.

Another reason is because they want all of the benefits of being a public corporation with few of the responsibilities and none of the obligations of governance.

But perhaps there is a simpler explanation.

Perhaps they have something to hide.  Like paying $500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money to keep the emperors from being indicted and perhaps doing time for violating the Controlled Substances Act after a multi-year federal sting operation and grand jury hearing at which Google was forced to disclose 4,000,000 documents.

Or more likely, perhaps the emperors and elected officials need to hide the same thing–particularly at the state level where corporate laws are made in the U.S.

The transparency of Google’s lobbying disclosures was raised by Danielle Ginach, representing a holder of 115,000 shares of Google stock worth roughly $60 million.  A modest proposal in a shareholder resolution from Ms. Ginach’s group of stockholders that would require greater transparency by the emperors in how they are spending the stockholders’ money on lobbying was promptly shot down by the insiders.  In fact, it was likely dead before it was introduced.

If this all feels familiar to those of you who negotiate with Google, now you know where it comes from.

This year’s shareholder meeting is no different according to the Wall Street Journal:

Wednesday’s shareholder meeting proceeded as expected. Alphabet’s 11 directors retained their seats, and six shareholder proposals, including measures to require an independent chairman and disclose more information about Alphabet’s lobbying, were voted down. Mr. Schmidt and Google co-founders Mr. Page and Sergey Brin control a majority of Alphabet’s voting shares, making it impossible for shareholder proposals to succeed without their support….

Michael Passoff, the CEO of Proxy Impact, a shareholder-advocacy group, said Google “lags its peers in addressing gender-pay disparity” and pushed Mr. Schmidt to release more complete data on pay for men and women at Google. In a tense exchange, Mr. Schmidt said he wouldn’t commit to releasing a report on the issue—a proposal voted down earlier—but “would work to convince you this is true.”

The Google insiders never adopt any shareholder proposals, and essentially rub everyones noses in the fact that Google controls the entire company and everything it does.

Which means when you read stories about Google’s lobbying power, that’s really the lobbying power of Schmidt, Brin and Page.  Over time, as all bullies know, the victim will stop struggling if they internalize the fact that resistance is futile.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first opportunity for shareholders to question executives since the company reorganized into Alphabet, a holding company for its core business of Google and several other projects, such as home-automation firm Nest, research lab X and Google Fiber. But few shareholders asked tough questions. The first to speak asked executives why they no longer gave out coffee mugs at shareholder meetings; an executive later announced 100 free hats would be delivered.

Read about the 2016 meeting at the Wall Street Journal

Read about how Eric Schmidt got his board to approve $100 million bonus for himself in 2015 in USA Today.

Funny how Google never gets mentioned in discussions of income inequality by the candidates–but then Eric Schmidt provides campaign services to Hilary Clinton and Google is the largest contributors to Bernie Sanders.

Bernie April 2016