Google Searches For Stones In Belgium

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Shortly after some impressive huff-and-puff grandstanding, Google decided it best to comply with a Belgian court order after all. The company initially refused an order to post a ruling against Google on its Belgian homepage and Google News site, and seemed to take the $640,000 daily fine on the chin.

It appears it only takes two of those blows to make Google cry “uncle.” Google posted the ruling on Google.be and news.google.be on Saturday. Google had called the order “unnecessary” and “disproportionate” given the widespread news coverage of the rift between French-language Belgian newspapers and the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine.

The online news organizations who brought complaints against Google in Brussels argued that copying their content for use in Google News was clearly a copyright infringement. Google argued its usual spiel – that only the headline and the lede are displayed at Google News, leading more traffic than usual to the news organizations’ websites to find the Paul-Harveys (the rest of the story).

Increased traffic or no, it seems to be a matter of principle for the Francophile Belgian press, as copying is copying is copying.

We’ve seen this type of grandstanding before. Google initially resisted Brazilian orders earlier this year to turn over information about certain Orkut users. Orkut is Google’s social networking site, immensely popular in Brazil, that was being used to spread information about drug trafficking, child pornography, and other illegal activities. Google soon abandoned its user privacy objection and complied with the Brazilian government.

Neither of les resistances were as impressive as Google being the lone holdout among Yahoo, MSN, and AOL when the US Department of Justice sought to muscle out reams of searcher information. Google was eventually forced to comply with a court order, but the information offered was much slimmer than the information given up by Google’s competitors.

Google biggest struggles and criticisms have surfaced as a result of the company’s dealings abroad, not at home. The first international instance that caused an uproar was Google’s agreement to censor search results in order to have full access to the Chinese market. Similar to now, Google resisted Chinese authoritarian mandates longer than Yahoo or MSN, until finally falling in line with the rest.

Is this a pattern developing? Does the pattern begin from the empty corner where once sat Google’s do-no-evil policy? Or is this just the price of going public and international?

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Google Searches For Stones In Belgium
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