In late January 2020, Google made what looked like a counterintuitive, counterproductive plea to the government regulators. At the World Economic Forum—a meeting of the world’s most powerful economic entities—Google used its clout to call for additional regulation within the tech industry, specifically on the subject of artificial intelligence.
“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai proclaimed. “The question is how best to approach this.” The day before, in a Financial Times op-ed, Pichai elaborated upon his position: “Companies such as ours cannot just build promising new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used. It is equally incumbent on us to make sure that technology is harnessed for good and available to everyone.”
Google would have us believe that, for the good of all people, it is willingly shackling its own success. The tech giant is voluntarily limiting its dominant influence within the industry’s free market to ensure the safety that government regulation provides. What a noble sacrifice, right? Not quite. While Google’s rhetoric on the issue implies a degree of selfless abnegation, the reality is anything but.
The search engine company isn’t handcuffing itself with self-imposed restrictions; it’s using the government to pave the way clear of any potential competition.
Google currently maintains a commanding position within the tech industry, as it holds about 88 percent of the market share for search. But A.I. could change all of that. The right artificial intelligence, introduced by one of Google’s smaller competitors, could theoretically revolutionize the tech industry landscape, challenging the search engine company’s dominance in the process. To Google, artificial intelligence in its competitors’ hands is a threat to their business model. So, it’s lobbying the federal government to regulate its opposition out of the market.
The strategy is devious, manipulative, and, unfortunately, brilliant. Given Google’s uniquely dominant position within the tech industry, it alone would have the resources to deal with the added costs that government regulations would impose. The tech giant may be able to afford the army of lawyers needed to navigate the government bureaucracy. The trillion-dollar company can pay the sky-high compliance costs associated with A.I. regulation. But Google’s potential competitors, the small tech start-ups, certainly cannot.
By advocating for more government intervention within the tech industry, Google is effectively consolidating its power over the market. All the while, Google gets to claim that it’s sacrificing its position in the free market for the greater good. The strategy is dangerously effective—and that’s not the first time Google has sought to use the authority of the government to increase its power, either.
In fact, Google is currently attempting the same tactic with the United States’ Supreme Court, America’s ultimate decision-making authority. In its upcoming Supreme Court case, Google v. Oracle, Google is looking to redefine the bounds of copyright protection in order to increase its influence over tech innovations—and it is pushing the Supreme Court to do its heavy lifting.
Google had initially attempted to license Oracle, but after it rejected the terms of the licensing agreement, the search engine giant just decided to copy portions of Java’s software instead. And now, Google is attempting to use the Court to strike down Oracle’s copyright claim to the Java program.
Without strong intellectual property protections over things like code and software, Google could merely replicate just about any digital technological innovation. Indeed, Google’s unwarranted copying of Oracle’s Java code—worth an estimated $8.8 billion—precipitated the Google v. Oracle lawsuit. That code allowed Google to create Android, the immensely popular mobile operating system, without providing just compensation to the creator of the intellectual property. And if Google manages to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in its favor, it will have succeeded in codifying that precedent into the American Justice System.
In the same way Google’s push for A.I. regulation is a tool to consolidate their industrywide power, their Google v. Oracle lawsuit is an attempt to snuff out any potential competition. A favorable ruling for Google would allow the company free reign to copy the digital intellectual property of its competitors, destroying the drive for innovation in the process.
But technology companies aren’t the only competitors at risk. Google has been accused of attempting to consolidate power to the Democrat party by snuffing out its competitors, conservatives.
In 2016, SourceFed, a news-pop culture outfit, reported that Google manipulated search results to favor Hillary Clinton by burying negative stories about her, with video evidence. For example, a search for “Hillary Clinton cri” resulted in a top result of “Hillary Clinton Crime reform”. But a search of “Hillary Clinton cri” on Yahoo and Bing resulted in “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” and “Hillary Clinton crime”.
Simply different algorithms? Really? How much was Hillary Clinton’s “criminal reform” at the top of the news in 2016 vs the criminal investigation by the FBI?
Google’s push for regulatory reform is merely a method to increase its control over the market, furthering their ability to manipulate search results and target conservatives in the process. Despite what Google may claim, its calls for regulatory change are anything but sacrificial. Whether it is targeting IP or urging implementation of A.I. regulations, or targeting conservatism and Republicans, Google seeks to weaponize the authority of the federal government against industry competitors, and for that reason, it must be stopped.
Andrea Kaye is host of the nationally recognized Andrea Kaye Show, heard on KCBQ 1170 AM The Answer in San Diego California. Find out more at andreakayeshow.com.