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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.