Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, the government opened its first major monopolization case in decades at the D.C. District Court with opening statements from both the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the defendant, Google. Despite the stakes of the trial, the remainder of the legal proceeding will take place in a near-total blackout, since requests for public audio have been denied by Judge Amit Mehta and even in-person attendants are restricted from digital access inside the courtroom. For nearly two decades, Google has served as the “on-ramp” and gatekeeper of the digital world through its dominance of search engine functions, which is the target of this case.
Early on the morning of 10 June 2013, Hong Kong time, the journalist Glenn Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras published on the Guardian site a video revealing the identity of the NSA whistleblower behind one of the most damning leaks in modern history. It began: “My name is Ed Snowden.” William Fitzgerald, then a 27-year-old policy employee at Google, knew he wanted to help. But he didn’t yet know how. Snowden was arguably the most wanted man in the world. The confidential documents he shared with Greenwald, Poitras and the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill detailed a sweeping US government surveillance program that was global in reach and involved some of the world’s best known tech companies.
In January, amid mass layoffs across the tech industry, Google laid off 6 percent of its workforce, or about 12,000 workers. In protest, dozens of tech workers crowded the sidewalk outside of Google’s Chelsea offices on February 2, sharing stories of laid-off coworkers and urging each other to join the union. The protest took place while executives at Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were on an earnings call with investors, announcing billions in profits. The workers highlighted the cruelty of how workers were told they’d lost their jobs. One anonymous worker shared that they were laid off via email while eating breakfast in the office.
In early February 2016, the security gate at a U.S. military base near Washington, D.C., swung open to admit a Navy doctor accompanying a pair of surprising visitors: two artificial intelligence scientists from Google. In a cavernous, temperature-controlled warehouse at the Joint Pathology Center, they stood amid stacks holding the crown jewels of the center’s collection: tens of millions of pathology slides containing slivers of skin, tumor biopsies and slices of organs from armed service members and veterans. Standing with their Navy sponsor behind them, the Google scientists posed for a photograph, beaming. Mostly unknown to the public, the trove and the staff who study it have long been regarded in pathology circles as vital national resources: Scientists used a dead soldier’s specimen that was archived here to perform the first genetic sequencing of the 1918 Flu.
Since the 1970s, economists buying into the Chicago School of Antitrust have waved off the dangers of lax antitrust policies, professing that “the market” would sort out issues of competition and punish companies that abuse size and power. The Chicagoans’ narrow focus on direct consumer costs as the sole measure of harm didn’t consider the impact of consolidation on small businesses, start-ups, workers, or, for that matter, democratic norms. Nor did it raise red flags for tech platforms that were touted as “free” for users (while monetizing our attention and personal data). A growing number of critics argue that these basic assumptions are both wrong and outdated, as evidenced by the fact that in many industries, particularly technology, companies have been growing to gargantuan proportions and, as anybody who owns a smartphone is painfully aware, they seem free to gobble competitors, hinder innovation, and serve up crappy, overpriced products.
On Sept. 14, 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai posted a blog outlining the company’s “Third Decade of Climate Action,” with its escalated commitments to addressing the crisis. Among them were an elimination of Google’s entire carbon legacy, a commitment to run all of its campuses and data centers on carbon free electricity, and promises to invest in tools to promote energy efficiency. The announcement came on the heels of an escalating pressure campaign from Google workers for the tech giant to do better on climate change. Like many campaign victories, it was an imperfect one. Many of the Google workers’ demands, like a commitment to cease funding for climate-denying think tanks, remained unaddressed.
In this episode of The Watchdog, former Google employee Ariel Koren joins Lowkey and articulates her experience at the big tech giant, claiming it has gradually developed an institutionalised pro-Israeli bias. She also reveals ways in which employees attempting to hold the company accountable for unethical contracts, such as that of Project Nimbus, are being targeted and intentionally silenced. Google, alongside Amazon, has signed a contract worth $1.2 billion, titled “Project Nimbus”, which will provide a cloud system service for both the Israeli military and the Israeli government. Disturbingly, the project was announced May in 2021, the same month Israel killed at least 260 Palestinians in Gaza. Adding insult to injury, it was during this period that Amnesty International found Israel guilty of practising Apartheid against the Palestinian people.
Folha de São Paulo reports that the YouTube algorithm has found to be giving prominence to videos in favor of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in its recommendations. The findings were published by NetLab, a special unit at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). According to opinion polls, Bolsonaro is on course to lose the coming election, after a catastrophic first term, and the far-right president and his military dominated government has attempted to cast doubt on the electoral process itself, as a means to remain in power. The UFRG study finds he is being aided in this by YouTube, owned by US tech giant Google. It is not the first time the company has faced criticism for apparent political interference in Brazil.
Tech workers held actions in multiple cities Sept. 8, demanding Big Tech drop its Project Nimbus contract with the apartheid police state of Israel. Project Nimbus is a $1.2 billion-dollar contract Amazon and Google have with the Israeli government and military for “cloud computing” that aids in surveillance and persecution of the Palestinian people through artificial intelligence. Actions were held in Seattle, New York City, San Francisco and Durham, North Carolina. In Seattle, activists spoke about reasons why workers will not support the Zionist project and oppose the cooperation of Israeli forces with the Seattle Police Department. The Palestinian people face untold horrors of oppression by the Israeli government.
Google employees in Durham protested outside of their office Thursday afternoon, calling on Google and Amazon to stop working with the Israeli government and military. The protest, which included around 40 employees, was part of the national #NoTechforApartheid campaign, a movement based around a $1.22 billion project contract that Google and Amazon signed with the Israeli government in May 2021. Known as “Nimbus," the project intends to provide cloud support for Israel’s military and government. Google and Amazon signed the deal while Israel was conducting airstrikes in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip and forcibly evicting several Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Los Angeles, California - Google employees have protested their company’s $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government and military called Project Nimbus, which aims to silence and profile pro-Palestine voices in the high-tech company and around the world. “Google’s Project Nimbus will be an ugly moment in Google’s history and shameful and embarrassing engagement,” said one employee who preferred to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation. “I have found Google’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program to be a whitewash, it’s more of a tool for censorship and control than for truly supporting employees,” said another.
The US government employs many strategies to try to justify its intervention in the internal affairs and violation of the sovereignty of foreign nations. Chief among these deceptive tactics is Washington’s weaponization of accusations that its adversaries violate the freedom of expression. This is quite ironic, given that the United States is the world’s leading violator of press freedoms, according to any consistent definition of the term. And unlike the countries that Washington claims supposedly repress the freedom of expression within their borders, US government censorship of independent media outlets and suppression of alternative voices is global, hurting people across the planet. The Joe Biden administration has in particular gone to great lengths to depict itself as a defender of civil liberties.
California - A federal district court in California on Friday denied Google's motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that the Silicon Valley giant is violating federal antitrust laws by preventing fair competition against its YouTube video platform. The lawsuit against Google, which has owned YouTube since its 2006 purchase for $1.65 billion, was brought in early 2021 by Rumble, the free speech competitor to YouTube. Its central claim is that Google's abuse of its monopolistic stranglehold on search engines to destroy all competitors to its various other platforms is illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which makes it unlawful to “monopolize, or attempt to monopolize…any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations.”