It’s been over a week since News Corp publicly criticised Google in an open letter to the EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia. Given the time elapsed without a response, one might have assumed that the tech firm with the motto ‘do no evil’ had simply turned the other cheek. Lovers of corporate squabbles will be delighted to learn, however, that Google was just taking its time.
In a blog post headed ‘Dear Rupert’, the search giant’s top PR Rachel Whetstone addressed News Corp’s criticisms point by point. They’re not exactly stinging, but here’s the best of them:
News Corp, jealous of its intellectual property, accused Google of being a ‘platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks’. Whetstone’s response was a flat denial - with some very large numbers to back it up. ‘Google has done more than almost any other company to tackle online piracy,’ she said. ‘In 2013, we removed 222 million web pages from Google Search due to copyright infringement.’
How that figure compare to the total number of web pages that actually infringe copyright, of course, only Google knows.
Google, with 90% of the search engine market in Europe, was ‘willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition’, according to News Corp. There were particular qualms with the propensity of Google searches to prioritise their own products, such as Youtube videos and Google Maps.
Whetstone’s response was that they’re simply giving user what they want. ‘If you are searching for the weather, you want the weather where you are, on the results page, not just links to weather sites,’ she said.
While this may be what monopolists have been saying for decades, Whetstone does make an important point about the openness of the market: ‘Because the competition is just one click away online, barriers to switching are very, very low.’
News Corp’s initial letter got personal when it called Google’s management ‘cynical’, and accused the search engine of contributing towards a ‘more vexatious level of dialogue in our society’. Google clearly felt that was a bit rich coming from the former owner of the disgraced News of the World.
After defending the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergiy Brin, Whetstone linked to The Sun’s infamous ‘Up Yours Delors’ headline from 1990, writing (complete with cheesy smiley face): ‘People probably have enough evidence to judge that one for themselves :)’.
Enough said, really.