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The role of Google acting as a moral agent

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 606 words Published: 17th Jun 2020

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assess the role of google acting as a moral agent


Google is an internet search engine, the avowed mission of which is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Google Company, 2016:1). As such, it is an information tool that purportedly delivers, not creates, information. Its role is supposed to be passive, and precludes modifying or otherwise interfering with the content it delivers. “Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission,” according to Google’s senior policy counsel, Andrew McLaughlin (Yang, 2010:1). Established only 18 years ago, Google nevertheless finds itself at the centre of the centuries-old issue of media censorship that weighs freedom against responsibility (Abbasi & Al-Sharqi, 2015). On January 12, 2010, Google discontinued its Chinese website due to what it believed to be government-supported cyber-attacks resulting in theft of intellectual property. It cited ethical and moral issues as the reason for the discontinuance, because the internet firm would not employ self-censorship (Yang, 2010). However, despite Google’s supposedly adamant stand against political censorship, Fox News (2016) reported that it allegedly manipulated search results to favour certain candidates in the recent US presidential campaign. Notwithstanding arguments favouring seemingly benign forms of censorship (Marsh & Melville, 2011; Bitso, et al., 2012), any form of censorship is antithetical to the raison d’etre of global internet search engines. Even on the issue of censoring content deemed inappropriate for minors, Cutugno (2000) stresses that monitoring content is the job of parents, not that of the government or institutions. Google’s mandate necessarily prohibits it from interfering or filtering internet content, at the risk of betraying the trust of its customers in its impartiality and reliability to deliver accurate information. For Google to act as moral agent is to corrupt the truth by diminishing it, substitute advocacies for facts and deliver propaganda instead of information. Google would cease to be Google.


Abbasi, IS & Al-Sharqi, L 2015 ‘Media censorship: Freedom versus responsibility.’ Journal of Law and Conflict Resolution, 7(4):21-25 Bitso, C; Fourie, I; Bothma, T 2012 ‘Trends in transition from classical censorship to Internet censorship: Selected country overviews.’ IFLA & FAIFE Spotlight. Retrieved 23 November 2016 from http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/faife/publications/spotlights/1%20Bitso_Fourie_BothmaTrendsInTransiton.pdf Cutugno, F 2000 ‘Censorship of the Internet: The Job of Parents, Not Government.’ Honors Paper, Indiana University South Bend. Retrieved 23 November 2016 from https://www.iusb.edu/ugr-journal/static/2000/pdf/cutugno.pdf Fox News Election HQ 2016 ‘Report: Google is Censoring Search Results About Hillary Clinton’s Health’ Fox News Insider. 28 August. Retrieved 23 November 2016 from http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/08/28/google-censoring-search-results-about-hillary-clintons-health-reports-say Google Company 2016 ‘Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ Google Company. Retrieved 23 November 2016 from https://www.google.com/about/company/ Marsh, I & Melville, G 2011 ‘Moral Panics and the British Media – A Look at Some Contemporary “Folk Devils.”’ Internet Journal of Criminology, ISSN 2045-6743 (Online). Retrieved 23 November 2016 from http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/marsh_melville_moral_panics_and_the_british_media_march_2011.pdf


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