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Kashmir Hill: ‘Yes, Google Uses Its Power to Quash Ideas It Doesn’t Like’

Kashmir Hill, writing for Gizmodo:

The Google salespeople were encouraging Forbes to add Plus’s “+1” social buttons to articles on the site, alongside the Facebook Like button and the Reddit share button. They said it was important to do because the Plus recommendations would be a factor in search results — a crucial source of traffic to publishers.

This sounded like a news story to me. Google’s dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers. By tying search results to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network.

I asked the Google people if I understood correctly: If a publisher didn’t put a +1 button on the page, its search results would suffer? The answer was yes. […]

With that, I published a story headlined, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” that included bits of conversation from the meeting. […]

It escalated quickly from there. I was told by my higher-ups at Forbes that Google representatives called them saying that the article was problematic and had to come down. The implication was that it might have consequences for Forbes, a troubling possibility given how much traffic came through Google searches and Google News.

Shameful that Forbes caved on this, but such is Google’s influence over websites that depend on inbound search traffic.

Update: Be sure to read through to the Hill’s update at the end of the story. There’s some dispute over her allegation that after Forbes took down her article, that Google immediately removed it from their search results and cache. I’m more interested in the simple fact that Google used promises of better search results as a carrot to encourage news sites to include Google Plus buttons on their articles, and that when Hill reported on this, Forbes took the story down in response to complaints from Google.

Friday, 1 September 2017