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A Google search on the Net Neutrality Act

By Frank Salvato
web posted May 29, 2006

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), has proposed legislation titled the Network Neutrality Act of 2006. It aims to make sure that the telecommunication giants play fair with Internet access for "inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses." While it has some well-intended propositions for protecting the little guy, it also raises questions where the free-market is concerned. I was researching the pros and cons of the measure when another issue arose that made me take pause. The fact is, I don't know if I am getting all of the information I am led to believe exists on the Internet?

Where the Network Neutrality Act of 2006 is concerned, I abhor unwarranted and intrusive government intervention. We live in a free-market economy and a capitalistic society, no matter how earth-shattering that may be to some "progressives." To endorse legislation that would establish government oversight of free-market enterprise would be hypocritical, yet the issue isn't that simple.

The possibility that mega-corporations could blatantly manipulate the free flow of information and access to the marketplace in their pursuit of power, position, profit and influence is very real. While the issue of discriminatory practices against small business where access to the Internet marketplace is concerned may be removed from the daily concerns of the everyman, the manipulation of the free flow of information should be of the greatest concern to each and every one of us.

Recently, the publication which I manage and publish, The New Media Journal, was removed from the Google News crawl and the Google databases because they insisted that a few of the independent opinions published were – in their opinion – "hate speech." The writers in question dealt with the uncomfortable subject of radical Islam and its direct link to violence and terrorism in the Middle East and around the world.

It is important to point out that Google has no published guidelines specific to "hate speech." They do, however, allude to the idea that their mission is to construct a totally unbiased news engine, based on a principle of human nonintervention, fully automated both in its gathering and editing of news.

The removal of the New Media Journal from Google's news crawl is not unique. Other conservative websites were removed from Google's news service because they posted opinions unsympathetic to radical Islam. MichNews, PHX News and The Jawa Report, although eliminated from Google's news crawl, are still available in a routine Google search of the web. The New Media Journal is not.

Whether you agree with the opinions of the writers or not is irrelevant. There are many opinions spouted from a variety of avenues of thought that can be considered offensive and tasteless, even hateful. "Bush lied," a statement that originates from an untruth, is used specifically to promote a political agenda. It can be considered offensive and even hateful by some, simply due to its dishonesty. But in a country where the freedom of speech is regarded as not only a constitutional right but a societal one as well, we must expect that there will be those who do not share the passion of our convictions, and we must respect their right to do so.

That conservative leaning web publications are being banished from perhaps the single most recognized search engine system in the world should be alarming. Their removal eliminates an opinion, whether radical or not, and silences an aspect of legitimate debate, whether agreeable or not. In removing any opinion source from their databases, this company, whose product is information, has taken it upon itself to mandate for the people of the world the definitions for free speech and hate speech, without establishing their criteria for the public to view.

It should be noted that websites from The Ku Klux Klan, The American Nazi Party, The New Black Panther Party, al Manar (the terrorist group Hezbollah's "news" website) and The Mazui Foundation – that offers a t-shirt that says "Kill Whitey" for $15 – are currently included in Google's search engine index. It should further be noted that The New Media Journal pieces cited by Google as "hate speech" are still available on Google through other publications.

It's a dangerous thing when those who identify themselves as disseminators of unbiased information begin to establish definitions for the rest of us. One man's "hate speech" is another man's dissent. While some, or many, may disagree with the information presented in any given publication (I personally was offended by the untrue stories published by Newsweek of Qurans being flushed down toilets and by Dan Rather and Mary Mapes attempting to pass off manufactured news as the truth) it is still in the interest of preserving free speech that all information be presented, so the public can decide for itself.

All entities, whether governmental or private, need to protect the sanctity of free speech. This is a basic civic responsibility; a civic responsibility that our Founders envisioned would be championed by every American. Those who do not hold the basic principles of our founding documents in the highest regard are tyrants, opportunists and cowards. Sadly, we live in an era when civic responsibility is disposable and considered a burden, an annoyance rather than a privilege. Our Founders are weeping.

Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal.us. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education project. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, numerous radio shows coast to coast and his pieces have been recognized by the Japan Center for Conflict. He can be contacted at oped@newmediajournal.us Copyright © 2006 Frank Salvato

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