Google: Already Putting SOPA into Action

Google Blacked Out for SOPA Protest

Reminder: Hildy’s blog is no longer the official blog for Creating the Future. Please link here to find all the great Creating the Future posts you may be missing!

What follows is a story of what it looks like when a well-respected organization fails to walk its own talk. And it is a story with direct application to anyone who runs an organization or a business of any kind.

If you used the internet at all today, you noticed something different. Wikipedia’s site is blacked out. Google has a huge black bar across its page.

The darkness is a protest of 2 pieces of legislation that are so poorly written that the result could literally shut down the internet.

According to small business advocate Mark Riffey,

“The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have a noble and necessary cause behind them: To protect intellectual property created by U.S. citizens and businesses – Movies, music, photos, books, blog posts, computer software, and so on.”

So what’s the problem? Isn’t it good to have those works protected? As someone who has personally suffered unbelievable plagiarism, the answer is obvious.

But here’s what sites like Wikipedia and Google are protesting:

The legislation will allow internet service providers to simply shut down your website or blog if they believe you have done something to violate the law.

No hearing. No right of appeal. Not even a word of explanation. If someone accuses you, even if they are 100% wrong, BAM your website could be shut down.

But Wait – Google Has Already Put That into Effect!
While Google blacked out their site today, joining the massive protest against SOPA, the reality is that Google has already put SOPA-like rules into effect.

They have shut down the web activity of innocent people who use Google for everything from email to document storage, from their calendar to their ability to post videos to YouTube.

They have done that with no warning, with no explanation – and with absolutely no way of asking, “What did we do, and how can we get our stuff back?”

I know because they have done this to us.

Two weeks ago, Google “disabled” all service to the account Creating the Future has there.

Suddenly we cannot access our calendar or the years of appointment records we have stored there. We can’t access the email we receive there. We can’t access our YouTube videos – videos that have, as of today, almost 15,000 views.

We tried to contact Google through their site. Truth be told, we’ve tried 3 times a day for weeks.

We tried to contact them via their Facebook page and via Twitter. We tried to get hold of them through Google+. We talked to people on Google forums.

We finally found a phone number and called them. The person we spoke with seemed startled that anyone had found a number to call. She told us there was nothing she could do, that we would have to go to the same website at which we had been filling out the form for weeks. We asked to talk with her supervisor, and she told us, “My supervisor is not allowed to talk with you.”

This is disappointing on a number of levels.

First, Google has the reputation of being an amazing company. We all hear of their great work environment. They have been at the forefront in areas like introducing mindfulness in the workplace.

People also speak about Google’s philosophy – its Ten Things We Know to Be True. Again, this is the mark of a company with a soul.

And then there is the fact that their products are amazing. We love them. We want to use more of them.

As a matter of fact, when all this happened, we were in the process of moving all the stuff that is stored under our old name – Community Driven Institute – to our new name at Creating the Future. Migrating all our YouTube videos. Creating a storage area for all the Google documents used by the various teams at Creating the Future. Creating a Google+ presence. And so on.

Now, we are in despair. We have no recourse. We have no way of appealing. We have no way of even asking, “Why did you shut us down?”

Sadly, Google, you may be protesting SOPA today, but you are already putting it into action, right now, against a tiny organization that is only trying to do good in the world.

And maybe that’s their intent. Maybe by showing a tiny group like us what SOPA would look like in action, you are encouraging us to protest this draconian and ill-written piece of legislation – showing us directly what it would look like to wake up one morning and have your whole internet presence gone.

So, Google – we are with you. We promise to get solidly behind killing SOPA.

Now can we please have our stuff back?

Update: Look at that! One blog post and several well placed retweets, and we have regained access to our stuff!

And while that is all well and good, that does not get to the point of this post. And that is the connection between walk and talk, and the message that disconnect gives to those around you.

Yes, Google has a reputation as a great place to work. But knowing that, I want them to be equally a good place to do business. I don’t want them to act like the bumper stickers we used to see for the phone company: “We don’t care; we don’t have to.”  Unlike the phone company or the banking industry, most of us want to like Google (while we LOVE hating the phone company!!)

In your own work, if you’re wishing others would act in a certain way, the best way to encourage them to do so is for YOU to act that way first.

So, Google, take note – it’s not just what you do once, but what you do all the time that counts. And for those of you who are not quite as gigantic as Google, the same goes for you.

3 Responses to Google: Already Putting SOPA into Action

  1. Hildy – You nailed it! (Mostly, I think – see beloww.) Sadly, Creating the Future is not the only site that has mistakenly been shut down by Google. And you are so right that Google does NOT walk the walk with customer sservice – or even approachability.

    However, there is one big difference between Google and the government: theoretically, we own the government so we get a say in the scope of the law, one way or another. It is totally unfair that Google shut down Creating the Future! But I guess Google can and I suspect their user terms allow them to do so (shame on us for not reading all that fine print in user agreements). I also think it is totally unfair to legislate that that is the right of the government.

    You make an excellent point, but I respectfully think there may be some slight distinctions between Google and what the US government should be allowed to do.

  2. Debra –
    My smiling response is “Yes, and…” And there are actually two “ands”.

    The first is that these days, Google is pretty much a utility, like the private electric company or gas company. And when we consider the analogy of my electric company – a private company – they cannot just turn off my electricity without a series of recourse steps for me, and appeals, and etc.

    The electric company is private, corporate, with a board of directors and shareholders, all like Google. But they are a public necessity for living life in the 21st century – much because of the symbiotic relationship between we 21st Century humans and electricity (sound like the web and Google?).

    Secondly, though, the lesson is bigger than utilities and Google. The lesson is what Google looks like when it purports to hold itself to a high standard, and then miserably and publicly fails to walk its talk.

    Organizations doing community benefit work – be they traditional orgs or social enterprises or socially conscious businesses (which, BTW, Google purports to be) – they are asking the world to judge them on their values. They believe they are doing that so good things will happen for them – whether that is community support or people buying their products or whatever.

    What they are NOT taught to do, though, is to actually walk that talk. And more to the point, they are not taught that there is a quid pro quo – and that is that you can’t just say “we have these values” and expect people to buy your stuff. You have to actually walk that talk.

    The quid pro quo is that people will buy from you if you show them those values ALL THE TIME. And they will STOP buying from you when you fail to do so.

    Which comes back to the utility analogy. Because really, am I supposed to stop using Google? And do what then? So there is SIGNIFICANT reason this is applicable to Google. They don’t have to be a government for that to be the case.

    WOW you got me going this morning! But there really is a ton to chew on here, and it all relates to what it means to be a values-based organization in a connected world. Thank you beyond thanks, Debra, for getting the juices flowing!!!

  3. I left this same note on your facebook group, but thought i’d leave it here too just in case other visitors see it. This is super important:

    cannot stress enough about how important these internet freedom issues are. In my opinion, it is the biggest issue we face today regarding technology. It has implications on the economy, business, security, privacy, education, and more. Along with bills like HR 96 Internet freedom act (which keeps popping up in other bills) – The way the legislation is written it could completely rewrite the way the web works, and more importantly, put web oversight in general (at least in the U.S.) under the fingers of congress – which has admitted on several occasions they do not know what to do with it. Want to access facebook – some of these bills could be interpreted to allow ISPs to charge extra – a la carte like cable – for specific sites. Want to check gmail – nope sorry, that’s an extra package worth $10 per month on top of what you pay for internet access. its the reason the bills are supported by Comcast, Time Warner, etc, and the same reason it is railed against by wikipedia and google. We need to support the organizations that rally against the bills. Normally i would say write your congressman and senators, but the representatives who drafted these like Lamar Smith of TX and Marsha Blackburn of TN, dont care about you or your family. I know this because I’ve written them both several times about these bills, and all i get back are stock forms that their interns sign. I’m quite confused as to how they were even elected in the first place.