After reading through Jesse Willms’s online exploits, one perfectly reasonable reaction would be to cling ever tighter to the sites you trust—to vow never to stray from the seemingly safe paths laid out for us by Web gatekeepers like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Since these companies have huge financial stakes in maintaining user faith, the thinking might go, they would surely never endanger that by doing business with potentially shady companies or affiliates. Right?
Well, no: the evidence shows that they, too, often work with unsavory advertisers—sometimes knowingly….
Consider Google, whose famous motto, “Don’t be evil,” has not prevented it from engaging in suspect practices for the sake of ad sales. According to court documents, Willms paid Google at least $1.7 million to advertise his various sites. And while the tech behemoth has often claimed that it couldn’t possibly monitor all of its advertisers’ practices—and thus shouldn’t be held liable for them—recent events have called this argument into question. In August 2011, for example, Google agreed to a $500 million forfeiture after a government sting revealed the company’s willingness to work with online pharmacies that were illegally selling prescription drugs. The investigation found not only that Google was aware these advertisers were breaking the law, but that its employees helped offenders prepare ads for prescription-free drug sales that would skirt Google’s own regulations.
Google has also been accused of profiting from so-called typo-squatters (who set up sham sites with misspelled URLs like twittter.com) and wittingly selling ads to companies offering counterfeit products.
From “The Dark Lord of the Internet,” a compelling (and disturbing) account of the rise & fall (& rise & fall & rise again) of a shady e-commerce “mogul” in this month’s Atlantic.
As for Google, I’m done giving them passes. When they first hit it big, I fell as hard as everyone else did for the whole Googleplex-as-Xanadu/”Don’t be evil” act. I wanted to work there myself. Over the years, my adoration has eroded, tiny revelation by tiny revelation, but I still sort of held out hope that Google was mostly good overall. I clung to willful naivete the way we do with a sports hero who is no doubt juicing but has not yet been convicted.
No more. The accumulation of tiny revelations has finally collapsed the roof for me. Google is being evil.
Alex Pappademas, for Grantland.
(I am 35.)
I can’t drink because I just get tired. I go to sleep. I don’t know how people drink and then do shit. Like in movies or TV shows, when there’s people in an office having a power meeting, and they’re ‘clink, clink’ — they’re making a drink! — in the daylight, with a tie on.
"Well, Senator, hope you’ll play ball with us on this construction deal, if you know what I’m sayin’."
"Yeah, well, I’ll see what’s in it for me. Heh heh heh."
How is the next scene just not all those people lying on the floor going, “Fuck, I can’t believe I drank whiskey at noon”?