Google, The Unbiased Company, Has CEO Backing Obama

Oct 31, 2008 • 10:30 am | comments (17) by twitter | Filed Under Other Google Topics
 

It's one thing to be a celebrity and endorse a political candidate. It's another when you're supposedly a spokesperson for a company that purports to be unbiased -- and yet, you clearly and openly endorse a candidate. Over at Search Engine Watch, forum member Discovery has a problem with one of the recent "infomercial" endorsements that Barack Obama created to further his presidential campaign. In the infomercial, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, announces that he stands behind Obama. Naturally, Discovery has a problem with this because Eric Schmidt's "fame" comes from being affiliated with a clearly unbiased search engine (unless Google really is biased against results -- but I find that hard to believe), and since Schmidt is currently in so deep with Google, some feel that it's completely unethical for the company's CEO to say that he approves of Obama.

From Schmidt's endorsement (which was thought out and likely even practiced), Discovery makes the assessment that Google stands by Obama:

Google told me: We are Democrats, we support Barack Obama.

If the "unbiased" Google associates itself with a particular political party, it paints suspicious picture. How many people can trust Google as an actual technological innovation if its CEO cannot keep his distance from political endorsements? Further, did we not forget that Google has a huge digital footprint on us -- that Google knows our emails, searches, and we are entrusting the search engine with a lot of private information that we would not give to just anyone?

What makes Eric Schmidt different? He's the company's CEO; he has access to all of this information. Discovery says that this is much worse than Martha Stewart's or Donald Trump's individual endorsement as those celebrities don't have intricate details about our lives like Google does. Schmidt has treaded very dangerous waters.

This isn't about whether Google endorsed Obama or McCain, but I'm sure many people have a problem with the CEO of Google making that endorsement -- it blurs the line and perspective of the company.

How many of you think it was appropriate for Google to step into the political endorsement arena? Take the poll.

Forum discussion continues at Search Engine Watch Forums.

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Comments:

John Honeck

10/31/2008 03:22 pm

I thought they already were endorsing him when I saw that video that Matt Cutts was pushing around social media. It was about something trying to be cute about not voting from a bunch of airheaded celebrities. There is just something wrong with making a statement you know is going to offend 50% of your customers that seems, well, unprofessional. Sometimes Google acts like the junior executive at the Holiday party that's had a little too much to drink.

Andrey

10/31/2008 03:32 pm

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. On one hand, I can see your points and also don't think a CEO should go and speak for the entire company by saying "we". On the other hand, CEOs will still have opinions with politics. Is it better that they not say anything and fund or work with the politicians behind our backs? If a CEO is going to use their power for their own agenda, they'll do it regardless if they publicly endorse a candidate or not.

Tamar Weinberg

10/31/2008 03:42 pm

I'm curious to know why the 8 people who have thus far said "yes" find that it's appropriate. Why don't you guys comment? Andrey -- I don't think we have an issue with them having their opinions. Making it public, on the other hand, is very risky, especially if you're associated with an "omniscient" company like Google. Any involvement with a candidate during this period of uncertainty for the government is pretty questionable if you're Google, wouldn't you agree?

Chris Bartow

10/31/2008 03:45 pm

If I remember correctly, it was around when they were talking about health care spending. Doesn't Google want to create a system that stores our medical records and lets us access them along with granting access to doctors? It's the ole, I gave you a political ad, you give me a huge government contract.

Michael Martinez

10/31/2008 04:06 pm

If you and I are allowed to speak our minds and support whatever candidates we choose, then so is Schmidt and every other CEO. That he and possibly other Googlers support a Democratic ticket doesn't mean the search engine is biased. That Wikipedia stub articles continue to appear in search results above robust, highly relevant content means that Google is biased -- or broken.

kim krause berg

10/31/2008 04:09 pm

This doesn't bother me but I'm thinking of some of the points being made by others and they're good ones. I'm for freedom of speech. Does that also mean freedom of public endorsement? I suppose each person must weight the risks.

Jeff

10/31/2008 04:32 pm

I thought the same thing earlier in the month when on the Google blog the company announced it was against California Prop 8. I thought Google's executives are pretty confident to use the company to promote their own political causes.

Gab Goldenberg

10/31/2008 05:10 pm

At first I thought no, he shouldn't have, but then I figured it's better if it's public: that way, we can take Google's search results etc. with a grain of salt. Also, I have a hard time believing that what the bosses think doesn't shape the results. Probably not in a grotesque way, but in the culture and eventually that seeps into results, like Wikipedia (biased to the left) showing up everywhere. If it's a business objective to push XYZ proposition, then you just find some footprint of pro XYZ blogs and give that footprint a boost. That way it was "algorithmic".

neyne

10/31/2008 06:07 pm

Gab I think you are taking it a bit too far. I think that they are smart enough and business-oriented enough not to mix the algorithm with their political opinions.

Barry Schwartz

10/31/2008 06:12 pm

Its perception here, nothing to do with what they really will do. I have faith that Google will do whatever they can do make their results as unbiased as algorithmically possible. That is what they are known for and I trust they will keep it that way. This is about perception, nothing more. The ordinary guy on the street, who doesn't know Google as well as you and I, might take this to mean something else about the company - not the CEO. Side note: This has nothing to do with political views - let me make that clear.

Todd Mintz

10/31/2008 06:13 pm

Not bothered...at all.

Nick Wilsdon

10/31/2008 07:12 pm

In terms of their international expansion it's shooting them in the foot. Some countries are sensitive to a US company taking a dominant place in their online media and these kind of comments are not going to help. I don't think it's "completely unethical" for Schmidt to say this but probably unwise and not in the company's interests abroad. They would be better to be perceived as apolitical.

JohnMu

10/31/2008 07:30 pm

I'm glad Eric isn't just a droid, zombie CEO without a real life. Even on halloween.

John Honeck

10/31/2008 08:23 pm

How many people (real people not SEOs) think that the search results are influenced by using AdWords or Adsense? Lots, and it's stated all over the place that they are not. 50% of the people in the US are going to disagree with his political views, and a percentage of them are going to think their agenda is also going to be pushed through the search results. That may not be the reality, but I don't think it's a wise decision to open the company up to that sort of scrutiny. They took so much heat for the "miserable failure" thing that they made a hand edit to remove the perception of a bias, yet now you have the head of the place stating he does have a bias. Oh well, it will blow over soon.

Eric

11/02/2008 02:30 pm

Of course it is okay. He is a private citizen, not a government official. Does Google have a policy against it? Then that is between him and Google (oops. He makes policy.) Ultimately, it is between him and his board and shareholders. And if you honestly think that Google is UNIBASED - welcome to the 21st century! No one is unbiased and it is silly to believe otherwise. Oh - the other aspect. For political reasons, isn't Google smart to be associated with the "winning" team?

D Morrow

06/07/2009 08:55 pm

Google CEO in the tank for Obama. Needs to stay out of policy involving healthcare. It is not in his area of expertise, and will affect millions of Americans that do not have their hand in the federal purse

now non-google user

01/30/2012 06:41 pm

So is Goole currently endorsing Obama for his apparant re-election attempts? Because it seems like it. Google, today, wrote "Watch Obama answer your questions. Live on youtube tonight at 5:30" That seems like a very left based thing to say seeing as the American people are kinda fed up with Obama and his lies, deceit, and broken promises to "fix" the country. He's done more damage than can be fixed in a lifetime of trying to "fix" the economy and country. Google needs to take their head and pull it out of Obama's butt and quit being an a**kisser. He's not the answer to fixing our country and economy. All he's done is make it worse.

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