Google: An emerging global actor in the Internet world
The diversity of information that Google provides is also a subject of criticism. The Internet is an environment with no quality control; anyone can gather whatever batch of information they wish and present it to the whole world
It employs over 70,000 people around the world. It owns five of the top 10 most downloaded mobile applications in the United States. Having being traded at $85 in its initial public offering, the company’s shares rose up to $600. The company with the highest mobile and digital ad revenue. In 2017, its revenue in the mobile market is expected to reach some $50 billion.
The above describes Google, one of the world’s leading technology companies. It has offices in many countries and their online products carry significance beyond their commercial value. Today, Google’s actions have profound effects that can change the entire world. With its current scale, it is not only a technology company but also a global actor.
One of the most elaborated subjects in international relations is the concept of an “actor.” In international relations, entities that can make independent decisions and take independent action are called actors. States, individuals, national interest groups, international organisations and transnational organisations are the most common actors of international relations. Even though they differ in type and organisational structure, the common characteristic of all actors is their ability to influence other actors. Google is also recognised as one of the major global actors among others, such as General Motors, IBM, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Unilever and Microsoft.
Google is not just a mere search engine; it offers a cornucopia of services in different areas. Google offers a wide variety of possibilities for a vast number of people in the world with services such as; Google Analytics for reviewing website statistics, the free online mail service Gmail, the document editing tool package Google Docs and Google Translate for helping people to communicate in different languages, the Internet browser Google Chrome, social media networks Youtube and Google plus, and Google Earth for displaying a 3D representation of earth based on satellite imagery.
Google is a technology company, but the services it provides also have a social aspect. For example, you can observe a forested area in a city, thanks to Google Earth, and measure how much of this area has been destroyed by urbanisation over time; likewise, you can watch a conflict between the security forces of a country and demonstrators.
Moreover, the ability to comment on the shared information, documents and videos can turn masses into participants in global or local events, helping the organisation of new social movements.
The fact that online data can be easily and quickly accessed today leads to the empowerment of both citizens and non-state actors. It strengthens the hand of global civil society against national Governments, international bureaucrats and traditional political elites.
Until now, the main sources of news for many countries were the Governments. Therefore, Press agencies were limited to the information presented to them by the Governments for their news pieces for the masses. In today’s cyber age, people have the ability to access news and information that can rival Governments in quality and speed. In this way, NGOs, think-tanks and various interest groups are able to question Governments’ practices more frequently and effectively.
Non-governmental organisations are now far more effective in their efforts on specialised subjects, such as the environment, global poverty, public health, personal rights and freedoms.
In this sense, it is possible to say that Google has made an important contribution to democracy and human rights in the world. However, the final picture is not so perfect. The diversity of information that Google provided is also a subject of major criticism. The Internet is an environment with no quality control; anyone can gather whatever batch of information they wish and present it to the whole world. It is not possible to know the reliability of the information that Google presents, especially on political issues.
Moreover, the parameters Google uses to determine the priority of search results are not entirely clear.
When these facts are taken into consideration, it can even be said that Google is the biggest propagator of political radicalism, racism, pornography or religious bigotry.
Undoubtedly, Google is already aware of this and is making every effort to establish the necessary control mechanisms but considering that there are one billion different web sites on the Internet, it will not be easy.
While Google distributes information, it also collects information from its users. This information includes a variety of personal information, from personal pictures to political tendencies, their holiday locations during the summer and the kind of food they prefer.
When we consider this side of their operations, it is not wrong to think of Google as the world’s largest intelligence firm. But how much of this information is shared and with whom? This is one of the most important questions of our time and unfortunately there is, for now at least, no clear answer. That’s why many countries feel the need to set up their own search engines and mail services, in order to establish a protective shield.
Another criticism is about Google’s influence on the new generation. According to this school of thought, Google makes it easy to jump to a variety of contents on different subjects. For this reason, it undermines young people’s ability to think and learn, and destroys their ability to focus.
Even though the world of the Internet has some drawbacks, it is actually an important world paving the way for very important developments. So much so that the wealth of information accessible through today’s Internet and social media have the power to influence the minds of the masses.
The effective use of this weapon may disturb some of the world’s delicate balances. This significant power over the masses can be well-used for the propagation of peace and reason. Hateful masses are created by propaganda and indoctrination; the same methods can be conveniently used to spread love and friendship across the world. It is even enough to merely change the type of language used on the Internet to achieve this.
Big Internet platforms like Google possess the power to do that. Propaganda, which is the driving factor of today’s wars, massacres, exploitation and brutality, can easily be utilised for positive suggestions.
It should not be forgotten that the human soul is more receptive to positive ideas. Platforms like Google should direct all their talents and capabilities to change the masses that shape the world; to create happy, free and peaceful societies and to break the chains of negativity.
(The writer is a Turkish author)
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