Google throws a brazen comeback at News Corp. after the media conglomerate accused the search company of serving as a "platform of piracy" all while hoarding all the advertising dollars.
In a point-by-point rejoinder posted on Google's official blog, Google senior vice president of global communications Rachel Whetstone fired back at News Corp.'s CEO Robert Thomson, who penned an open letter to the European Union commissioner for competition Joaquin Almunia criticizing the antitrust settlement that the commission reached with Google after four years of legal wrangling. Thomson, whose News Corp. owns major European media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Times and The Sun, also took it as an opportunity to condemn other Google business practices.
The letter opens with a salutation that says, "Dear Rupert," referring to Rupert Murdoch, founder and executive chairman of News Corp. In response to Thomson's accusations that Google is a "platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks" that "chooses to ignore the unlawful and unsavoury content that surfaces after the simplest of searches," Whetstone said Google removed from its index 222 million web pages that violate copyright laws in 2013 and continue to downgrade these websites in its search rankings. She also pointed to ContentID, a YouTube technology that filters copyright-infringing videos.
Google also said that "people enjoy greater choice than ever before," and pointed out that there are "very, very low" barriers for people to switch from Google to other content providers because they are only one click away. The search company also points to the emergence of websites and apps that allow users to access their preferred websites directly instead of going to them from Google. This is in response to Thomson saying that Google's "overwhelming power" makes it hard for users to "access information independently and meaningfully."
Thomson's letter also lamented that Google's "habitual appropriation of content and audiences" will lead to more "opinions that will proliferate but will be based on ever flimsier foundations," but Google answers back by saying it has driven more than 10 billion monthly clicks to more than 60,000 publishers' websites.
"Access to information in any given country, particularly news content, used to be controlled by a relatively small number of media organizations," writes Whetstone. "Today, people have far greater choice. That has had a profound impact on newspapers, who face much stiffer competition for people's attention and for advertising Euros."
Google's parting shot is a tongue-in-cheek reference to an infamous Sun front page from the 1990s in response to Thomson saying Google's "undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society." The image shows the headline "Up Yours Delors" followed by a sub-headline that says, "At midday tomorrow Sun readers are urged to tell the French fool where to stuff his ECU." The headline was referring to then president of the European Commission Jacques Delors.