Google Censors Entire Payday Industry; Who Will Be Next?
Google, which handles an overwhelming percentage of online searches, has rules in place that ban advertising for products such as guns, tobacco, illegal drugs and products that don’t fit the company’s “family image.” These are usually AdWords ads, which are those listings that appear along with organic search results. Google decided to extend its mandate to “protect” consumers by banning advertising for payday loan ads and other short-term loans with interest rates higher than 36 percent annually.
The ban is scheduled to take effect on July 13, 2016. Google’s decision to censor an entire legal industry raises questions about how the company might further misuse its power. Google has become incredibly powerful and collected an astonishing amount of information on people and their Internet habits for many years. The company and Internet marketing have become so strong that Google could potentially wipe out any industry that it chooses.
Entrepreneurs Who Depend on Internet Sales Should Fear Google’s Growing Power
The key difference in banning payday loans is that the industry is legal and popular with the people who depend on these loans for emergency cash. Google has crossed a line to become the arbiter of which companies are allowed to advertise. This takes on even greater significance because people carry their phones 24/7 and use them for most of their searches.
No company has ever had this kind of power to reach people any time or place, and that raises questions about censorship, privacy and antitrust violations. Any business or industry could be next on Google’s hit list–in fact, people are already posting the names of companies that they’d like to see banned from advertising. Google routinely violates people’s privacy by keeping tabs on what they do online so that it can choose the most relevant ads to display. With this kind of power, thoughtful people have to wonder: Could blackmail and extortion be next?
Google May Be Attempting to “Clean” Its Image
NewYorker.com reports that Google fulfilled a partnership role in the rise of the payday lending industry by running ads from payday lenders and earning big profits from these companies. Now that the CFPB and political opposition has grown, Google wants to reform its image and champion “social responsibility.” That would be quite an accomplishment because Google is itself an investor in an online lending company. The Wall Street Journal at WSJ.com reports that Google’s parent company, Alphabet,Inc., owns LendUp, a company that offers types of high-interest loans that would be banned from advertising under the new rules.
LendUp offers other kinds of loans that would qualify to continue advertising, and organic searches aren’t affected by Google’s change in policies. Consumers can still type “payday loans” in searches and get return lists of the best matches based on Google’s ranking formulas. However, the question remains whether this policy will continue, or will Google eventually decide to censor generic searches?
Instead of applauding Google for its courageous stance, lawmakers should be concerned about how much power Google has and its ability to rewrite history by censoring search results. The company rose to power by empowering people to find anything they want regardless of type, style, healthiness, country of origin or tastefulness. It’s disappointing and frightening when Google begins to censor the information it provides. Currently, Google allows advertising for porn, gambling, alternative health care and even politics. Will those be the next categories censored, or will Google allow “missionary porn” ads while banning gay, fetish and kinky porn?
Maybe It’s Time for Stricter Search Engine Regulations
Search engines in general and Google in particular have quietly amassed unprecedented power over people’s Internet activities. Many people credit Google with doing a stellar job of refining keyword searches to determine semantic meaning more accurately than any other engine, and the company deserves praise for helping people find goods and services on the Internet at no cost and for providing free email accounts and other services.
However, the company’s concept has always been to earn money from advertising that relates to those things for which people search. When a company starts making judgment calls about what consumers can see and censoring entire industries, it’s time to consider regulating that company and limiting its ability to influence behavior.
The principles of fairness, privacy and free enterprise don’t change based on media trends and social pressure. Maybe it’s time to regulate search engines more closely or implement regulations and guidelines that guarantee equal advertising opportunities for any legal business. Find out more about Google censorship, business hypocrisy and the payday lending industry at the PersonalMoneyStore.com.