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Aug 26, 2011

Google, the Big Brother

Here is what happened: Google deleted this blog, and then it was brought back from the dead within a few hours. After a half-billion settlement for advertizing fake Canadian pharmacies (RI prosecutors did the work, I am so proud), the Google team is just a tad paranoid. Who can blame them? Apparently, they now delete first, and ask questions later. My son Gleb guessed, the algorithm thought my blog was about gay porn. I must confess, I learned about all the bear connotations much later, after the blog was published for a while. I was actually going after the Cold War imagery of the Russian Bear; you know the one always invading the neighbors. But the algorithm did not know that. It happened to me before – the Providence Public Schools’ spam filter put me on their junk sender’s list, because I include the word Russian in my signature. The stupid machine thought I am trying to hook up all those fine eligible district bachelors with Russian fiancés. Thanks to Spencer, I was white-listed. Oh joy of being white-listed.

The challenge Google faces is enormous. I own dozens of documents, most of published on the web. Other people may have hundreds and thousands. The size of the Internet is approaching astronomical scale. How do you police all of that info-space, if you could be found liable for the content you host? The only way is to use the digital Robocops – computer algorithms that will kill bad blogs by the hundreds. Google’s human capacity is limited; its server space is not. It is probably cheaper to kill automatically, and then restore by hand than the other way around.

But I have to tell you, it does not feel good to be on the receiving end of the cyber justice. You want to update your blog one fine Friday afternoon – and it is just gone. Coincidentally, someone marked my Weekly Updates Google Doc as inappropriate – who knows, by error or as a prank. Maybe another stupid machine did not like a word or two in it. Now try to prove you’re innocent! The presumption of innocence does not seem to be working on the internet anymore. And the human mind is paranoid; it tends to believe the machine on the other side is just like us. Two things occurring at the same time look like a conspiracy. Am I being attacked? And then, on the same day, Google decided to check my password on the Droid phone. Well, I don’t wear reading glasses (although I should), so I simply could not see their scrambled pass code, you know the one you need to enter to prove you are human. Not fun; I must have tried a dozen times. With each attempt, I could feel how the Big Brother is becoming more and more suspicious. Each attempt made me a little more guilty. But I just could not see the damned made-up words! I had to come home, find a pair of glasses, and only then prove I am human. How did we get to the point where we must prove the machines we are human, over and over again? And since when having good eye sight has become a pre-requisite for being human?

And you want to please the Big Brother; you don’t want to offend him, oh no! Those of you who share with me the totalitarian past know exactly what I mean. You want to make sure the Big Brother knows you’re OK, while being angry more at oneself than at him . You don’t want to pick another fight with him, because those fights are just plain exhausting. You are ready to challenge him and die, but please spear me the small little every day fights, over every single little thing. Totalitarianism does not threaten; it exhausts you.

This is new, and paradoxical – Google is desperately trying not to become the Big Brother, and yet it is being dragged into the role against its will. Americans, who are genetically allergic to all these annoying things, may soon learn how is it to be watched. Life is surely full of irony. What Stalin could not do to the free word, its own technology may just accomplish.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'm just happy to see that the Russian Bear is back!