Two stories demonstrates Google is getting more and more savvy with PR. The two are the “postponement” of removal of Independent Label’s music content from YouTube and the other the so-called clumsy handling of the removal of BBC’s Robert Peston blog post.
On the surface both are bad news for Google. Actually, no. For the Independent Label case, it is good for Google/YouTube in the long term. When you dig into it, it is no different from what Apple or Amazon will do to those “poor” Independent Labels. The only difference is Google is more tolerant of criticism than the other two. If they did what they do to Google, they will be doomed, especially with Apple. Google tolerance of criticism is going to pay dividend in the future as that portray it as the gentle giant compare to ruthless dictatorship of the others. Moreover, I believe both sides realize that Google is just using the threat as a bargaining tool and never actually has the intention of implementing it, save for extreme cases. Independent Labels are using the PR as a leverage tool and both parties know it. So my prediction is when it comes to the wire, both sides will find a compromise both can leave with.
The second case involving Robert Peston’s blog post is a more complicated story. It is most likely to be a computer error, i.e., nobody actually hit the “Approve” button to remove the post from search history, the computer simply does it on its own. I believe Google is not alarmed that this type of mistakes happened. In fact, everybody, including the EU, knows it is going to happen one day. We all know it will happen sooner rather than later. The only unknown is who is the “victim”. From Google’s point of view the sooner the better as it can then put the blame on the teething problem. If you ask me I believe they know it will happen so soon that they can blame teething problem. It is not inconceivable Google is milking this as EU censorship go awry. Google PR stunt backfiring on it as TheRegister claimed? I will not be so hasty. It is too early to tell. I will say it backfires if Google is forced by EU or EC to sign an agreement specifically targeting situations like this. This can still happen. Google, however, should be more worry with the link to google.com search (US search) which redirect users to its full, untouched by the ECJ judgement, search on its search landing page for EU countries. I am sure Google’s lawyer had approved that as legal, but I think there is a possibility that Google will be sanctioned for bleaching that judgement.