An event called ‘Google for India’ was organised today where it was announced that the company’s staff strength for this country would be expanded. The speakers at the event offered platitudes in a manner typical of the corporate communication department while the most contentious issue for India is the way the services of Google approach users in this country. The trust and safety teams’ expansion does not mean much to Indian nationals nor do the changes in Google Accounts for people under 18 across YouTube, Search, Location History, Play, and Google Workspace for Education if the censorship by the products keep reeking of political motivation while even search engine optimisation remains a sham. Those technically educated would know that some of the best SEO-managed websites do not make it to the top list of news on Google while the richest media houses make it to the first page of every keyword search without following the standard rules for headlines, introductions, frequency of keywords, links etc. What is worse is their censorship. Targeted by elements inimical to Indian interests, especially interests of the Hindu community, YouTube videos and even entire channels are struck down on flimsy, unpredictable, arbitrary and inconsistent grounds. This would be ironic, given that the company is headed by an Indian and it employs a large workforce from this country, but it is not because people of Indian origin have been observed to turn woke and leftist on arriving on the American shores.
Google needs to assure India also of its dealings with China, a country that does not allow the company to operate on its soil and yet the American internet giant abjectly submits to the CCP. Content that exposes the communist state’s machinations is difficult to trace on Google. Since the outbreak of the disease caused by the coronavirus, suspected to be a biological weapon developed by China to devastate the world economy and make countries dependent on it, all news telling the stories of international intelligence agencies, China’s own doctors and exiled businessmen and the indictment of the regime of Xi Jinping by some governments and articles covering the sinister game have been suppressed. Very well knowing that the CCP employs an army of trolls, Google has done nothing to tackle the menace.
This genuflection to certain powers is not new. While internet arrived in India in 1998-99, news of scandals involving the Indian National Congress — for instance, the detention of Rahul Gandhi at the Boston airport in 2001 with unaccounted cash and alleged contraband — just disappeared from Google in the period that the United Progressive Alliance led by the party was ruling. The country and the world would have forgotten how shady the dynasty that heads the INC is if not Subramanian Swamy, as the then head of the Janata Party, had saved newspaper clippings of the time on his website. Of course, the current government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has asked the search engine company at times to remove some information too, but such requests from the regime were mostly made to avoid instigation of mobs or for news that was downright fake, as clarifications from the ministries concerned established on such occasions.
Ultimately, the issue with a behemoth like Google is whether a private company should have so much power as to be able to manipulate truths for public consumption. To that end, while no socialist or nanny-state approach is recommended to clip its wings, governments across the world must facilitate competition in this domain so that Bing, Yahoo, Swiftype, Overture Search Services, Inflow, Vimeo, Veoh, Twitch, Swarmify, Dailymotion, Metacafe and several hardly known rivals of Google gain enough prominence to end users’ dependence on a single source.