The world has changed since we last updated our chronological compendium of Google’s harmful misdeeds. Since the beginning of March, a novel virus has circled the globe, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and forcing most of us to shelter inside. This has brought the global economy to a standstill, causing the loss of millions of jobs – almost 40 million in the United States alone. The scope of this tragedy is simply overwhelming. 

We have watched the brave front-line workers battling the virus and those working to continue essential services with admiration and terror. The rest of us have been at home attempting to stay safe and healthy. During this time of quarantine, we have relied upon technology like never before to stay connected and to continue living our lives. We are genuinely grateful for the ability to find news and information, connect with our colleagues, friends, and relatives on video conferences, and have our groceries and meals delivered with convenient mobile apps. For those of us lucky enough to still be working, we have been extremely grateful for these conveneinces.

For these reasons, it might feel like the time to pause and appreciate the companies that we have criticized for so long, perhaps understand them in a new and more virtuous light. We thought twice about publishing new entries on a timeline that is intended to be critical of Google, at this particular moment of crisis.

But we think continued scrutiny is in order. Their technology has been helpful during this pandemic, yes, but let’s not forget what we’re talking about here. Google’s business model and the illicit activities that it aids and abets on its platforms haven’t changed – its platforms continue to enable harms ranging from human trafficking to election meddling to hate speech, and in some respects, the pandemic has made things worse. YouTube and Google Search have been awash with dangerous COVID-19 misinformation – precisely at a time when people are looking to these platforms for life-saving facts.

The failure for so many years to hold Google accountable is what allowed it to grow into a colossus that could seemingly get away with anything – and continue to rake in staggering profits, no matter the fallout. Failing to hold Google accountable now could have an even larger impact on society.

“When this crisis is over,” The New York Times’ tech columnist Kara Swisher recently wrote, “I can say that we most certainly should fear Big Tech more because these companies will be freer than ever, with many fewer strictures on them from regulators and politicians.”

Let’s hope Swisher is wrong. Regulators and politicians should remain vigilant during this time, as well – now is not the time to relax strictures on a company like Google. Now is the time for increased attention.

So, please read the latest updates below, then be sure to continue reading for our complete Google Timeline of Scandal and Strife

Jump to Conclusion

TIMELINE UPDATES

December 16, 2019

YouTube Moderators’ Lives Not Bad Enough, Now Have PTSD 

You no longer have to go to war to get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you join the hellish ranks of YouTube’s underpaid moderator army, you, too, can fall victim to severe psychological damage from exposure to horrific violence and mayhem. Today, The Verge reports on the psychological condition of workers tasked with overseeing the “Violent Extremism” queue.  These employees, working at Accenture, the Austin-based company, are behind Google’s largest content moderation site in the United States. In a word: it’s grim. In a few other words: “Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend,” says one worker. “This makes you feel ill.” Work like this is necessary and important, but Google needs to do  more to protect these people.   

December 20, 2019

France Fines Google for Being “Non-Transparent and Discriminatory”

Google’s fine tally is well into the billions worldwide, and counting. Today, Google got hit with another  €150 million ($166 million) fine by France’s antitrust board, dished out for Google’s abuse of “its dominant position in the online search advertising market,” reports Variety. If Google dropped that much money on the ground, it wouldn’t bother to bend over and pick it up. But more important than the fines is the mounting number of cases where Google was found to be in the wrong.  

December 31, 2019

Google Cafeteria Workers Unionize

If time and wherewithal allowed, we would create a separate Google timeline devoted to worker strife. Today’s addition involves the company’s cafeteria workers, tasked with supplying many of the world’s wealthiest employees with their daily sustenance. “We’re overworked and underpaid,” a representative for the employees said, citing harms such as bullying and casual racism in the workplace. Surely, Google must have some loose change they could use to improve the well-being of the hard-working people who serve their executives’ daily avocado toast?

January 11, 2020

Young Workers Embarrassed to Apply at Google

There was a time, before Google’s Timeline of Scandal and Strife became quite so long, when qualified young people would beat down Google’s door for a job. But now, those who are “looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech,” writes The New York Times. “The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.” Even if Google can’t find any other good reason for #PlatformAccountability, maybe they can do it to keep the talent stream flowing?

February 13, 2020

Very Powerful Video Game CEO Calls Very Powerful Google “Bad and Ugly”

Today, in a speech at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Fortnite CEO Tim Sweeney tells an audience of video game developers that the business practices of Google (and its equally corrosive peer, Facebook) represent the “bad and ugly” aspects of the industry, and pledges that Fortnite will do better with its own business model. How? With business practices that don’t “profit by doing their customers harm,” he said. What a novel and refreshing idea! Google, are you listening?

February 20, 2020

New Mexico Sues Google for Spying on Kids

You already knew that the world is Google’s surveillance state and all of us – even our children – are just living in it. But that didn’t stop the state of New Mexico from filing a lawsuit today against Google for educational offerings that monitor kids “without their knowledge and without the permission of their parents,” reports The New York Times. More than half of America’s schools, along with 90 million students and teachers globally, use Google apps like Gmail and Google Docs. Too big a temptation for Google to resist? Yeah, massive profit opportunities can have that effect on people…

March 11, 2020

Google Strongarms TV Makers into Blocking Amazon

Google seems to be inviting another antitrust case. As we learn today, the company bullies television manufacturers into denying business to Amazon. “Any company that licenses Google’s Android TV,” reports Protocol, “has to agree to terms that prevent it from also building devices using forked versions of Android like Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.” If the company breaks those terms? Google takes a pinky. And by “pinky” we mean, “it could lose access to the Play Store and Google’s apps for all of its devices,” the report continues. Which, in the streaming ecosystem, is just about as bad as losing a finger, if not worse.

March 23, 2020

Mask Sales Harm Healthcare Workers, Help Google

Today, as a global pandemic ravages the known universe, Campaign for Accountability reports that Google (and Facebook) “are allowing sellers and advertisers to hawk medical face masks on their platforms weeks after the tech giants promised to crack down on the practice.” At a time when front-line healthcare workers are desperate for anything to help shield them from a deadly virus, and consumers are more vulnerable than ever to scams and price-gouging, Google’s abject failure to police harmful content on its platform feels more dystopian than usual. And, as usual, they make money from all of it.

April 3, 2020

Google Sued Yet Again for Kids Flubs – This Time By the Kids Themselves

We all know Google – and its video platform, YouTube – doesn’t give two hoots about the safety of children. Now it appears that even the children are onto their negligence. Today, CNET reports on two Illinois kids who are suing Google for “allegedly collecting biometric data, including face scans, of millions of students through the search giant’s software tools for classrooms.” Kids file the darndest lawsuits, don’t they?

April 10, 2020

France Wants Google to (Finally) Pay for Copyrighted Content

France is really becoming a thorn in Google’s side. Today, Yahoo! Finance reports that the nation’s competition regulator announced that Google must, “within three months… conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents”. Do you ever wonder why all this kind of stuff is so obvious to regulators in Europe and Asia, and yet our own government seems to be oblivious?

May 13, 2020

France Again: Act Quicker With Pedophiles, Google, or Pay the Price

The French aren’t sitting around. They are tired of Google’s monopoly, they’re tired of Google stealing creative content, and today, they pass a law showing just how tired they are of the company’s lackadaisical approach to pedophile- and terrorism-related content. Platforms like YouTube must now remove such content “within the hour or face a fine as high as four percent of their global revenue,” reports Reuters. Vive la France!

May 15, 2020

Justice Department Preps Google Antitrust Charges

A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Google from consolidating their power – fortunately, some key American officials finally seem intent on checking some of that power. Today, The New York Times reports that “The Justice Department is planning to file antitrust charges against Google as early as this summer”. That move would be in addition to the antitrust investigations-in-progress from nearly all 50 states. In fact, the Times reports that many of those state attorneys general might even join the DOJ’s lawsuit. That kind of interlocked Voltron is what it will probably take to straighten out a company with a market value around $1 trillion – and even then, this is going to be one tough fight.

FULL TIMELINE

In a world where Google’s parent company, Alphabet, now has a market value of more than $700 billion, $9 billion sounds paltry. But, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of bad stuff for which Google has been called out over the years, including facilitating pedophilia, anti-vaccination campaigns, privacy invasion, and other harms to society; its willingness (only recently disclaimed) to work with an oppressive foreign government on a censored search engine; and its relentless siphoning of creative industry revenues through the enabling of, and sometimes active participation in, widespread copyright infringement.

As a public service, we’ve assembled this recap of Google’s greatest hits. It goes back a long way and it pays to recall all of the history… it helps us to remember just how far away Google has moved from its one-time (and long since abandoned) motto of “Don’t Be Evil.”

August 18, 2004 

A Catchphrase Is Born

Google makes its unofficial corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” part of the public record, devoting an entire section to the catchphrase in their public offering prospectus. “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways – by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.” Let’s see how they’ve done since then.

August 30, 2005

Google Steals all of the Books

On this date, we begin to learn that the laws, particularly those that protect creatives, are mere inconveniences for Google. Today, they launch a project called Google Print (later Google Books), which attempts to scan and make public virtually every printed book on earth. Not surprisingly, publishers and authors around the planet, including the Authors Guild, bristle at Google’s audacious pirating of their intellectual property. Oh, no problem, Google says, just tell us which of your titles you don’t want digitized and we won’t do it. In other words, this is an early example of Google’s “we’ll do it until someone tells us not to” approach to copyright, in which it dodges accountability for theft on its platform by putting the burden of enforcement on those being stolen from. This is only the beginning.

January 26, 2006

Google Builds Censored China Search Engine

Google wraps itself in the mantle of free speech and free information, but now they take a head-first dive into hypocrisy when they unveil a special Chinese search engine that carefully removes certain search results that might offend a controlling, authoritarian nation state. To the surprise of no one, it does not go well – but that won’t stop Google from trying again down the road (see: 2018). So maybe information in China isn’t so free… but does that really matter when it gives Google a shot at big bucks from putting ads in front of a couple of billion more eyeballs? Yeah, well, maybe…

October 10, 2006

Google Buys World’s Biggest Piracy Site

“In 2006, YouTube was basically America’s Funniest Online Videos + illegal SNL clips,” writes The Ringer. But, Google has bigger visions. Today, it acquires the video giant for a then-staggering $1.65 billion, overlooking the fact that YouTube is already corroded with, as NBC News put it, “volumes of copyrighted material” and will “be sued into oblivion.” Google bets big that it can win a lawsuit. And somehow, they do. (See March 2007 and April 2013.)

March 13, 2007

Viacom Sues YouTube for So Much Money

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a year after purchasing one of the world’s biggest piracy sites, Google faces a $1 billion lawsuit from Viacom for allegedly hosting roughly 160,000 unauthorized clips culled from outlets ranging from Comedy Central to MTV. The suit is notable not only for how it exposes Google’s wanton shamelessness in profiting from content it did not own, but also for inspiring the development of Content ID – a copyright protection tool that works for big content companies like Viacom but, to this day, does absolutely nothing for smaller-scale creatives whose works are misappropriated on YouTube. Even more notably, as we’ll see in our 2013 entry, Viacom will lose the suit.

October 17, 2008

Google Bails on Yahoo Revenue Share Deal

Anyone remember this weird moment in history when Google is fully ready to make an ad-revenue sharing deal with Yahoo? But then Google kills it, as this fascinating Wired story recounts, because of a single meeting with Department of Justice officials in which it becomes clear the U.S. government would view the arrangement as a monopoly threat. According to Wired, the broken deal marks a turning point for Google’s reputation. “They have permanently invited the scrutiny of the Justice Department into every future deal they do,” says one advertising consultant quoted in Wired. “Now they have monopolist written all over them.” More than 10 years later, they still do… but in larger type.

March 18, 2010

Google’s Own Execs Call YouTube a Pirate Site

Well, of course, we at CreativeFuture are always going to complain that YouTube is a pirate site. But, why take our word for it? Google’s own executives admit it, too! Today, The Mercury News reveals leaked internal communications showing that “many top Googlers,” including co-founder Sergey Brin, are “concerned about YouTube’s copyright piracy problems and how they could reflect badly on Google’s ethics.” Ethics? “Don’t Be Evil”? Is that thing still around? Well, yes, they’ll keep pretending for a while (see May 2018).

April 18, 2013

Viacom Shot Down, Copyright Owners Left to Fend for Themselves

Though appeals would drag the case on for another year, today Viacom loses its $1 billion copyright lawsuit against YouTube. Under the “safe harbor provisions” of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal judge concludes, YouTube is not responsible for scouring its website for infringing videos – only for taking them down after receiving complaints from copyright holders. Translation: “The burden of copyright protection isn’t YouTube’s. It’s yours. Good luck!” Years later, we get to “celebrate” that Google’s YouTube and Search alone receive an estimated 900 MILLION takedown notices in 2017!

April 15, 2015

European Commission Levels Formal Antitrust Charges

You know all that talk we are hearing now about “break up Google”? Well, this is when it all begins. For the first time, the European Union formally accuses Google of abusing its dominance in web searches. These legal actions proceed as slowly and creakily as a World War II battleship – and it’s still not even close to its destination – but hey, at least it’s moving.

June 27, 2017

E.U. Slaps Google with a Whopping Antitrust Fine

Today, the European Union levies a $2.7 billion penalty against Google, claiming the company’s favoring of its own shopping service in certain search results violates competition law. It’s a fine that would be ruinous for most companies – Google, of course, could pay it with the change between the seat cushions in Sundar Pichai’s private jet. But it’s still an objectively large sum of money – and a sign that Europe does not intend to be nearly as complacent as the U.S. when it comes to holding Google accountable.

July 11, 2017

New Report Reveals Google’s Extensive Financial Support for Academia

We can trust academics, right? Researchers are supposed to be independent and all about the facts. Well, if you still believe that, you might believe in Santa Claus, too. This is the day when a new report from Campaign for Accountability reveals that Google “in some way” funds a staggering 329 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on “public policy matters of interest to Google….” Authors of the articles hail from some of the most prestigious universities in America, including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, and many of them do not disclose Google’s funding. “Google should address its record of academic astroturfing,” writes Campaign for Accountability, “which puts it in the same league as Big Oil and Big Tobacco.” We couldn’t agree more.

September 27, 2017

Google Wages Brave Battle Against Sex Trafficking Bill

Another test for “Don’t Be Evil”: It comes to light that Google “has enlisted its broad network of paid policy groups to fight legislation that would remove a legal shield for websites that knowingly profit from child sex-trafficking.” Turns out groups funded by Google, or its parent company Alphabet, are unleashing dozens of op-eds, blog posts, action alerts, coalition letters, and other materials opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which seeks to remove a legal liability shield for websites that knowingly profit from child sex-trafficking. “With few exceptions, the groups failed to disclose Google’s financial support of their organizations or the academic institutions where they are employed,” writes the Campaign for Accountability. Huh. Apparently, Google doesn’t want to let the world know it’s trying to crush a bill that fights… child sex trafficking on the internet. 

November 6, 2017

YouTube Kids’ Content: Not So Good for Kids

Look, we get it – you’re at a restaurant or trying to watch a little Netflix at home. It’s been a long day and the kids are driving you crazy. It’s so easy just to hand them the iPad and let them watch YouTube so they’ll just leave you alone for a while. But please, stop doing that. “Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale,” writes artist James Bridle in a viral Medium post, “and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level.” It sounds alarmist, but it’s not. Bridle’s long and very troubled account of what’s really happening on Google’s video behemoth will make you feel that your sanity is slipping down a wormhole from whence it may never escape. Read it, then put on a nice DVD and hold your kids close.

February 2, 2018

Did YouTube Swing the 2016 Election?

Historians will be arguing this query forever, but today’s riveting Guardian story makes a pretty convincing case that YouTube at least had something to do with it. The piece focuses on an ex-YouTube engineer who, armed with a deep understanding of how the company’s algorithm exploits human psychology, wrote his own program to “explore bias” in the site’s ocean of content. He found statistical evidence of a recommendation engine that was decidedly “not neutral during the presidential race,” pushing videos to more than 150 million people that were damaging to Hillary Clinton, regardless of the political preference of the user. Regardless of your particular persuasion, the content of these biased videos has to be troubling: misinformation, conspiracy videos, fake news, and other harmful content that had, and has, the effect of “leading people down hateful rabbit holes.” Maybe YouTube swung an election, maybe it didn’t, but one thing is for sure: It’s toxic.

April 4, 2018

Employees Protest Google’s A.I. Weaponry Aspirations

For a company that touts its luxurious offices and unrivaled perks, Google has endured a surprising number of protests from its staff. Today’s resistance comes in the form of an internal letter, signed by thousands of workers unhappy with Google’s involvement in a Pentagon program involving targeted drone strikes. Turns out even massage rooms and gourmet cafeterias aren’t going to cut it if your workforce believes its employer is, as the letter states, “in the business of war.”

May 18, 2018

Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Clause from its Code of Conduct

Hey, somebody just noticed that this “Don’t Be Evil” thing is still in Google’s official employee code of conduct. So, today, they remove it. It’s a sign that the company knows it hasn’t exactly been living up to its valiant credo, and that keeping it around will probably give people like us some comedic fodder. Why set a standard of accountability you never intended to meet? 

July 18, 2018

E.U. Slaps Google with a Whopping Antitrust Fine… Again

In June 2017, it was $2.7 billion. Now the European Union fines Google a staggering $5.1 billion – this time for abusing its power in the mobile phone market via Android. Google will, of course, appeal the decision, and the case is likely to drag on for years, but we admire European competition policy chief Margrethe Vestager’s moxie. She’s tired of global internet heavyweights running rampant in her neighborhood and wants to do something about it. “Europe has largely acted alone in its regulatory actions against Silicon Valley titans,” writes The New York Times, “though there have been signs recently of shifting attitudes and a tougher stance by officials in the United States.” It’s about time.

August 1, 2018

Google Builds Censored China Search Engine… Again

China ethnically profiles their citizens using facial recognition (and shares the technology to do so with other authoritarian countries), trawls people’s social media activity to give them “citizen scores” that could affect their credit rating or ability to travel, and forces private companies to assist the government with spying on the populace. And yet, China’s 1.4 billion potential internet users  are like catnip to Google. How else to explain why, after already pulling one search engine out of the country over censorship concerns, back in 2010, Google is ready to try again – with plans to “launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest,” writes The Intercept. Ugh. The stink of pure, unadulterated greed is strong on this one. A year later, Google is still trying to deny they planned this… unconvincingly.

August 13, 2018

Google Tracks Your Movements – Whether You Want It to or Not

By now, many of us are onto Google’s aggressive collecting of our location data via apps like Google Maps. And, many of us have even tried to keep it from happening – by turning off a setting called “Location History” on our devices, which Google promised would make it so that “the places you go are no longer stored.” Uh, nope, ain’t true. There are, in fact, many apps spread through the Android ecosystem – and, in turn, across the Android devices of some 2 billion users – that still find plenty of ways to collect your location data whether you turn the setting off or not. It all kind of makes you realize, with slow, creeping dread, just how vast and complex Google’s surveillance operation really is, and how impossible it is to escape from it.

September 5, 2018

Google Ghosts Senate Committee

Don’t you hate it when you invite that special someone to your party, and they just don’t come? That’s what happened to the Senate Intelligence Committee, who asked Google to send one of its top executives to Washington for the most fun party of the year – a hearing on “Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms.” Cool kids Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey appear for the proceedings, but Google is a no-show, and the irate Senators mark the slight with an empty chair at the spot where the Google representative would have sat. It feels like a moment in regulatory history – when a company already under fire with the government throws unnecessary gasoline on the flames, just because they think they can.

September 11, 2018

Arizona Investigates Google’s Location Privacy Practices

If dysfunctional internet platforms had a nickel for every time they were “under investigation” somewhere in the world, maybe they could use that cash to put an end to their dysfunctional, ad-driven business model. Today, the Attorney General of Arizona opens up an investigation into Google’s “apparent tracking of consumer movement even if you opt out of such services.” The kicker is Arizona fines businesses up to $10,000 per violation of its law prohibiting them from deceiving users about their practices. That could add up to a lot of nickels.

October 8, 2018

Google+ Exposes 500,000 Users’ Private Data

Maybe Google was getting jealous of all the press Facebook has been getting for its dozens of data breaches. Today, we learn that a bug in its terminally ill social media platform, Google+, exposed the private data of more than 500,000 users for more than three years. To address the leak, Google pledges to eliminate the failed Google+ service … even sooner than it had already been planning to. It does not, however, pledge to finally explain how on earth Google Circles were supposed to work.

October 25, 2018

Google Makes Sure Sexually-Harassing Exec Is Set for Life

Scenario: One of your high-ranking employees is credibly accused by another employee of sexual misconduct. Do you: (A) fire them immediately, paying them little to nothing on their way out, or (B) hand them an exit package worth nearly $100 million and wish them the fondest of farewells in a public statement? Upon learning that Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, coerced a coworker into performing oral sex on him in a hotel room, Google chooses Option B. They pay the guy $90 million in severance, or $2 million a month for the next four years. That’s a lot of money for behaving terribly. Even worse? “Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct,” writes The New York Times. Wow, they got rid of “Don’t Be Evil” just in time for this one!

November 1, 2018

Employees Protest Google’s Handling of Sexual Harassment Claims

Well, that didn’t take long. Just one week after learning of the above incident in which their employer rewarded a sexually-harassing executive with a $90 million buyout, more than 1,000 Google staffers today stage a walkout. Protest organizers also write an op-ed for New York Magazine in which they demand “an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.” Turns out the toxic culture Google has fomented on the internet comes from within.

November 28, 2018

Employees Protest Google’s China Search Engine

This employee protest thing at Google is really catching on. With global walkouts over company sexual harassment policies still fresh in the rearview mirror, today’s resistance takes the form of a public letter, signed by more than 400 employees, blasting the China search engine project. “We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months,” they write. “International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project.” 

December 10, 2018

Google+ Exposes 500,000 52.5 Million Users’ Private Data

First, Google’s failed social media platform, Google+, exposed 500,000 users’ private information in a data breach. Scratch that. Now, we learn that, in a separate and unrelated incident, it also managed to leak “information like email addresses profile data” of 52.5 million of its users. Apparently, Google quickly found the flaw and corrected it, and, with the demise of the platform already imminent, nobody seems too particularly riled up over this little snafu. Still, there is something shocking and confounding about this news – i.e., we just can’t believe that 52.5 million people were actually using Google+!

December 11, 2018

Sundar Speaks

After ghosting a Senate hearing back in September, Google plays nice, sending none other than CEO Sundar Pichai to Capitol Hill to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. However, for those of us who hope for a deep cross-examination of an unaccountable internet juggernaut, the event is a bust. Pichai mostly gives evasive answers to questions on urgent issues such as his company’s alleged plans for a censored search engine in China. And, in the view of many, the representatives waste too much time grandstanding to their respective voter bases. “It was a foreboding reminder of Congress’s continued technological ignorance,” writes Wired, “and a sign that while lawmakers almost unilaterally agree that something must be done about tech giants’ tremendous power, they remain unwilling to set aside partisan squabbles to actually do anything about it.”

January 22, 2019

Google Sets Company Lobbying Record, Spending $20 Million to Woo Washington

Ah, America, where democracy is bought and sold by the wealthy and powerful. And, no one is wealthier, more powerful, and better at using their wealth and power to shape policy than Google. From covertly funding academic “research” that helps them crush copyright and competition, to pouring political contributions into Washington, nobody shapes the narrative in their favor like Google. Today, a quarterly filing to Congress reveals that, in 2018, Google outdid even its own record, with its parent Alphabet spending a company-record-breaking $20 million on lobbying efforts. Hey, if you had lawmakers weighing new privacy and antitrust rules to reign in your previously unchallenged dominance, you’d probably cough up a little cheddar, too.

February 11, 2019

More than 400 YouTube Channels Deleted for Pedophilia

This is just grim – and the world is still not outraged enough by it. For offering a platform where recommended videos not only facilitate child exploitation, but are monetized in the process, YouTube deserves some real punishment. Instead, it removes some channels and loses a few. Another day, another crisis managed. 

May 1, 2019

Employees Protest Google’s Response to Recent Protest

Now, Google employees are launching a fourth protest. Today in meta-protest news, we get allegations of retaliation from Google against employees who took part in another recent protest – last November’s walkout over the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims. Since then, certain employees filed claims of being demoted for their participation, while others had their jobs restructured. So, once again, Google’s beleaguered workers feel compelled “to sit together and show retaliation,” read today’s tweet from the Twitter account Google Walkout For Real Change (GWFRC), and to “be in solidarity with those withstanding this chilling practice.” Just one point of confusion about that brand. You need to specify the “chilling practice” you are referring to, GWFRC – there are just so many from which to choose!

May 30, 2019

The Tweet Thread That Broke (YouTube’s Carefully Honed Illusion of Properly Responding to Hate Speech on) the Internet

Today, a tweet thread from liberal Vox host Carlos Maza (Strikethrough) relates his years-long struggle with harassment on YouTube. The primary source of his woes is rightwing YouTuber Steven Crowder, who frequently motivates his three million subscribers to attack Maza in droves over his sexuality and ethnicity (Maza is gay and Hispanic). But, the real villain exposed by the thread is YouTube itself, and the company’s utter failure to respond to Maza’s pleas for them to step in and stop the incessant hate speech and cyberbullying. “I’m not mad at Crowder,” Maza writes. “There will always be monsters in the world. I’m f**king pissed at @YouTube, which claims to support its LGBT creators, and has explicit policies against harassment and bullying.” The tweet storm will go viral. And, after even more waffling, YouTube will finally address Maza’s claims in a meaningful way. Turns out there’s only one surefire way to get help from the platform that helped make public shaming a natural part of online life – you have to publicly shame them.

May 31, 2019

Google Faced with ‘Imminent’ Antitrust Investigation

Google is no stranger to antitrust investigations and even penalties, but today’s news of a Justice Department antitrust exploration into the company’s advertising and search practices just feels different somehow. Like maybe, just maybe, something big could come from it. Could it be the dawning realization from our most prominent leaders that, as Elizabeth Warren put it, a small number of companies, including Google, have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy”? In a word, yes.

June 8, 2019

How to Make a Radical on YouTube

Today, in a troubling New York Times exposé, we learn just how far wrong the YouTube business model can go. The platform’s algorithm is designed to keep viewers engaged for as long as possible, serving up an endless stream of recommended videos that demand attention through increasingly extreme interpretations of the given subject matter. For college dropout Caleb Cain, that subject matter was conspiratorial, frequently white supremacist, content that led him “down the alt-right rabbit hole.” Cain would eventually emerge from the morass to become an outspoken advocate against such hate speech – but he was just one of many who have and will be radicalized by “a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens.”

June 16, 2019

Sports Piracy Alive and Kicking on YouTube

Google loves to tout its anti-piracy successes, even in the face of ample evidence to the contrary – such as today’s news that millions of people around the world use YouTube to illegally stream pay-per-view boxing events. For instance, a recent heavyweight championship bout between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz was plagued by 13 million online viewers turning to illegal means to view it. The kicker? 93% of that illegal audience share came from YouTube. It’s just more proof that while Google may claim it’s fighting theft on its world-conquering video platform, it’s actually enabling it as much as ever.

June 19, 2019

F.T.C. Said to Be Investigating YouTube Over Child Privacy Claims

Just when you thought Google couldn’t be any more cynical and aggressive with its data collection practices, turns out the company has been targeting your children. Today, we learn that the Federal Trade Commission is in the “advanced stages” of an investigation into complaints that YouTube “had collected data of young users.” If proven true, such behavior is in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, adding to the list of troubling issues with YouTube and its millions of child-age users. The real question is, why on earth does YouTube still have child-age users?

June 30, 2019

Employee’s Protest Google at San Francisco Pride Parade

Put another mark on the ol’ Google employee protest tally, as several of the company’s LGBTQ+ staffers organize against the company’s recent decision to keep homophobic commentator Steven Crowder’s YouTube account live. The protestors take to the streets of San Francisco, marching and waving anti-Google signs in the city’s annual Pride Parade – but not before first trying to convince the parade’s organizers to deny Google’s participation from the event entirely. For those counting, this is the fifth act of organized dissent from Google employees on this timeline. 

July 30, 2019

Google’s Own Employees Want to… Break Up Google?

It sure looks that way. Today, we learn that Google employees are happily giving large chunks of their median $250,000 salaries to the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – the very same duo of Democratic presidential candidates who are leading the charge to break up Big Tech. In fact, reports Recode, Sanders and Warren “received the highest number of donations out of all presidential candidates from Google employees.” 

What gives here? To hear it from one of many of the company’s disgruntled workers, Google is “super inefficient” and “wastes tons of time and money.” You can afford to be like that when you command nearly 90% of all internet search. But, to hear it from your own staff? That has to hurt.

August 5, 2019

Google Employees Protest Discrimination Against Pregnant Women

New drinking game: Every time you see the words “employee protest” on this timeline, you have to drink. We’ll give you a minute. Drunk yet? If not, your tolerance is way too high and you need to cut back. Maybe take a cue from the expecting moms who work at Google, and who released a viral memo today titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why”. Posted on internal company message boards, the memo alleges discriminatory remarks, demotions, and subtle guilt trips expressed in response to maternity leave requests. Perhaps the most damning accusation of all came from a former Googler, who clearly felt free to tell like it is: “Google has a culture of retaliation that is reflected in its abysmal diversity numbers.” Ouch.

August 20, 2019

20 (Yes, 20) States Launch Joint Google Antitrust Probe

Call us crazy, but it seems like if nearly half of the states in the United States think your company is too big… maybe it is? Just a thought. 

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that not one, not two, but up to 20 states are “preparing to move forward with a joint antitrust investigation of big technology companies,” including Facebook, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Inc. The oncoming probe adds yet another layer of scrutiny for Google, which was already under antitrust investigation by the Justice Department, and also by the FTC for its handling of children’s data on YouTube. We know Google spends a lot of money on lawyering up, but this is getting ridiculous.

September 6, 2019

Google Under Investigation by 20 49 of the States

Okay, so California and, for some reason, Alabama are abstaining from the Google antitrust probe for the time being – but then California also isn’t saying that it isn’t investigating, so we’re going to go ahead and round up: Today, we learn that ALL of the states (pretty much) are holding a joint investigation into Google’s bulldozing of the competition in search and advertising. Indeed, in an age of division, it turns out we can still come together to fight these harms.

September 12, 2019

Another Day, Another Billion Dollars (In Fines)

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Google will pay more than $1 billion in fines in France. “Yeah, yeah,” we can hear you say, “what’s a billion bucks to Google?” We would agree, “Not much. ” However, the reason for this fine is interesting: Tax evasion. Google and their fellow tech behemoths are notorious for using every loophole they can find to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, including hoarding staggering sums of cash in overseas shell companies. This represents tens of billions of dollars that they could be investing back into their business, into innovation, into better protections for creatives, and into their local communities. Today’s French ruling is a reminder to all that Google, if nothing else, is very, very greedy.

October 31, 2019

OK Google, Where Can I Find a Good Slave?

Yup, you read that correctly. Today, the BBC reports that online slave markets in Kuwait and other Arabic countries are thriving on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and, of course, Google. An undercover BBC team posed as a couple in search of a slave and found apps in Google Play and other app stores that were exclusively dedicated to selling them domestic workers. “The sellers almost all advocated confiscating the women’s passports, confining them to the house, denying them any time off and giving them little or no access to a phone,” reported the BBC. “Google said it was ‘deeply troubled by the allegations’.” We’ve heard that one before…

November 15, 2019

Google’s Mission: To Organize Manipulate the World’s Information

Today, The Wall Street Journal publishes a blockbuster reveal of the ways in which Google manipulates the information you see. It’s a big deal because the company loves nothing more than to claim that they do not “use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” In fact, writes WSJ, they have “increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged.” Now we have proof of what we already knew – Google is really a publisher after all and should be regulated as such.

November 25, 2019

Google’s Open Employee Culture: Closed

A quick scroll through this timeline reveals no shortage of dissent from Google’s employees. Heck, since the last time we updated this timeline, the company has (1) had to be told to stop telling their employees not to protest, (2) been outed for retaliating against employees who reported abuse, (3) tried to shut down an employee meeting about unionization, and (4) hired a firm notorious for its anti-union efforts. It’s official: Google’s famously open employee culture is CLOSED. And, just in case you needed convincing, today we also learned that they fired four employees who, according to The New York Times, “had been active in labor organizing at the company.”

December 9, 2019

Google Busted for Union-Busting

Today, Google loses a big battle in their ongoing war against their own workers. CNBC reports that the National Labor Relations Board has opened an investigation into the company following their firing of four employees who were active in labor organizing. Google claims the employees “were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies,” but no matter how they spin it, it’s not a good look following escalating tensions with their workforce. The company’s seemingly infinite cash reserves make them impervious to even large fines doled out by the FTC, but this ongoing erosion of trust with staff is a different kind of pain. Google can make back even billion-dollar fines in a matter of days. Good people, however, are difficult to find.

December 10, 2019

Google Unfit to Buy Fitbit

Google’s federal investigation rate has now officially hit two per week. Joining yesterday’s probe from the National Labor Relations Board, the U.S. Justice Department today announces plans to begin an antitrust review of Google’s attempt to acquire Fitbit Inc. Now, why would buying a maker of fitness trackers qualify as antitrust? Well, because there is a heck of a lot of data in those little wristbands, which track everything from heart rate to exercise routines – and we all know Google is the undisputed champion of spinning people’s personal information into untold riches. Government antitrust watchdogs already thought Google had enough data before this attempted purchase – imagine what they would have if they were allowed to purchase the fitness data company.

December 16, 2019

YouTube Moderators’ Lives Not Bad Enough, Now Have PTSD 

You no longer have to go to war to get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you join the hellish ranks of YouTube’s underpaid moderator army, you, too, can fall victim to severe psychological damage from exposure to horrific violence and mayhem. Today, The Verge reports on the psychological condition of workers tasked with overseeing the “Violent Extremism” queue.  These employees, working at Accenture, the Austin-based company, are behind Google’s largest content moderation site in the United States. In a word: it’s grim. In a few other words: “Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend,” says one worker. “This makes you feel ill.” Work like this is necessary and important, but Google needs to do  more to protect these people.   

December 20, 2019

France Fines Google for Being “Non-Transparent and Discriminatory”

Google’s fine tally is well into the billions worldwide, and counting. Today, Google got hit with another  €150 million ($166 million) fine by France’s antitrust board, dished out for Google’s abuse of “its dominant position in the online search advertising market,” reports Variety. If Google dropped that much money on the ground, it wouldn’t bother to bend over and pick it up. But more important than the fines is the mounting number of cases where Google was found to be in the wrong.  

December 31, 2019

Google Cafeteria Workers Unionize

If time and wherewithal allowed, we would create a separate Google timeline devoted to worker strife. Today’s addition involves the company’s cafeteria workers, tasked with supplying many of the world’s wealthiest employees with their daily sustenance. “We’re overworked and underpaid,” a representative for the employees said, citing harms such as bullying and casual racism in the workplace. Surely, Google must have some loose change they could use to improve the well-being of the hard-working people who serve their executives’ daily avocado toast?

January 11, 2020

Young Workers Embarrassed to Apply at Google

There was a time, before Google’s Timeline of Scandal and Strife became quite so long, when qualified young people would beat down Google’s door for a job. But now, those who are “looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech,” writes The New York Times. “The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.” Even if Google can’t find any other good reason for #PlatformAccountability, maybe they can do it to keep the talent stream flowing?

February 13, 2020

Very Powerful Video Game CEO Calls Very Powerful Google “Bad and Ugly”

Today, in a speech at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Fortnite CEO Tim Sweeney tells an audience of video game developers that the business practices of Google (and its equally corrosive peer, Facebook) represent the “bad and ugly” aspects of the industry, and pledges that Fortnite will do better with its own business model. How? With business practices that don’t “profit by doing their customers harm,” he said. What a novel and refreshing idea! Google, are you listening?

February 20, 2020

New Mexico Sues Google for Spying on Kids

You already knew that the world is Google’s surveillance state and all of us – even our children – are just living in it. But that didn’t stop the state of New Mexico from filing a lawsuit today against Google for educational offerings that monitor kids “without their knowledge and without the permission of their parents,” reports The New York Times. More than half of America’s schools, along with 90 million students and teachers globally, use Google apps like Gmail and Google Docs. Too big a temptation for Google to resist? Yeah, massive profit opportunities can have that effect on people…

March 11, 2020

Google Strongarms TV Makers into Blocking Amazon

Google seems to be inviting another antitrust case. As we learn today, the company bullies television manufacturers into denying business to Amazon. “Any company that licenses Google’s Android TV,” reports Protocol, “has to agree to terms that prevent it from also building devices using forked versions of Android like Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.” If the company breaks those terms? Google takes a pinky. And by “pinky” we mean, “it could lose access to the Play Store and Google’s apps for all of its devices,” the report continues. Which, in the streaming ecosystem, is just about as bad as losing a finger, if not worse.

March 23, 2020

Mask Sales Harm Healthcare Workers, Help Google

Today, as a global pandemic ravages the known universe, Campaign for Accountability reports that Google (and Facebook) “are allowing sellers and advertisers to hawk medical face masks on their platforms weeks after the tech giants promised to crack down on the practice.” At a time when front-line healthcare workers are desperate for anything to help shield them from a deadly virus, and consumers are more vulnerable than ever to scams and price-gouging, Google’s abject failure to police harmful content on its platform feels more dystopian than usual. And, as usual, they make money from all of it.

April 3, 2020

Google Sued Yet Again for Kids Flubs – This Time By the Kids Themselves

We all know Google – and its video platform, YouTube – doesn’t give two hoots about the safety of children. Now it appears that even the children are onto their negligence. Today, CNET reports on two Illinois kids who are suing Google for “allegedly collecting biometric data, including face scans, of millions of students through the search giant’s software tools for classrooms.” Kids file the darndest lawsuits, don’t they?

April 10, 2020

France Wants Google to (Finally) Pay for Copyrighted Content

France is really becoming a thorn in Google’s side. Today, Yahoo! Finance reports that the nation’s competition regulator announced that Google must, “within three months… conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents”. Do you ever wonder why all this kind of stuff is so obvious to regulators in Europe and Asia, and yet our own government seems to be oblivious?

May 13, 2020

France Again: Act Quicker With Pedophiles, Google, or Pay the Price

The French aren’t sitting around. They are tired of Google’s monopoly, they’re tired of Google stealing creative content, and today, they pass a law showing just how tired they are of the company’s lackadaisical approach to pedophile- and terrorism-related content. Platforms like YouTube must now remove such content “within the hour or face a fine as high as four percent of their global revenue,” reports Reuters. Vive la France!

May 15, 2020

Justice Department Preps Google Antitrust Charges

A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Google from consolidating their power – fortunately, some key American officials finally seem intent on checking some of that power. Today, The New York Times reports that “The Justice Department is planning to file antitrust charges against Google as early as this summer”. That move would be in addition to the antitrust investigations-in-progress from nearly all 50 states. In fact, the Times reports that many of those state attorneys general might even join the DOJ’s lawsuit. That kind of interlocked Voltron is what it will probably take to straighten out a company with a market value around $1 trillion – and even then, this is going to be one tough fight.

And Fight We Will

Google is a company with a long history of carelessness and a profits-before-people agenda that has endangered our children, supported hostile and dangerous nation-states, and spread and fomented hate and divisiveness – and much, much more. This cannot continue.

So we wonder, in the face of all of these transgressions, why hasn’t Google yet encountered a public backlash, as Facebook did following the Cambridge Analytica revelations? Perhaps it is this constant, thunderous deluge of misdeeds that has lulled us all into complacency? The result is a quietly growing cancer on our society, eroding our trust in each other and in the institutions that preserve our democracy.

It’s time to demand change. And, if Google is incapable of making change from within, we need pressure from without. We need to tell our political leaders that we want them to reassess the overbroad internet safe harbor laws that have allowed Google to behave with impunity. 

As we continue to follow quarantine and social distancing rules, let’s come together and use our collective voice to demand change. Together, let us make choices and advocate for changes that bring us all closer to true #PlatformAccountability. #StandCreative

Return to beginning of timeline