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Google resists demands from states in digital-ad probe (wsj.com)
323 points by aty268 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 172 comments

Fun fact: Google is allowed to defend itself and is not obliged to give prosecutors all they want. The framing of “resists giving documents” purposely makes it similar to “resisting arrest”.

Fun fact 2: the AGs are being advised by a former News Corp (read: WSJ) lawyer who also advises other google competitors (https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/10/08/texas-a...)

Fun fact 3: AGs are elected so they seek publicity, they are also corrupt: the one in Mississippi was issuing subpoenas to Google on behalf of the entertainment industry (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141217/06353329462/attor...)

We've banned this account, the same way we've banned dozens of your previous accounts, for doing astroturfing for Google for many years now.

We've got nothing against Google [1] but we've sure got something against abuse of HN—it boils our blood. Since your comment was the top post on the top thread, I think it's fair to leave this up so everyone can see what you've been doing.

It feels like I spend half my life telling HN users not to make insinuations about astroturfing and shilling without evidence [2]. The other side is that we have a contract with the community: when we do find evidence, we crack down hard.

[1] In case anyone is worried about bias, here's an example of moderation going the opposite way: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20890092. And here's one that involved a different company: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11905831.

The Googlers who participate on HN are overwhelmingly honest and are some of the best community members that HN has. They're 100% welcome here, and if I were them I'd feel even madder about this than we do.

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturf&sort=byDat...

Disclaimer: No association with Google or the banned account. Also, strongly disagree with the banned user's take on the suit.

This ban seems unfair, and if it is rooted in an anti-astroturfing policy, then that policy appears way too aggressive - no one wants HN to be a marketing site for mega-corps, but passionately defending one's favorite company shouldn't result in a ban. Also, the moderators have all the power, and accused none. While moderating is likely arduous and maybe even moribund, being a fanboy/AstroTurf-er especially one not behaving badly, isn't worthy of silencing/banning (that's my opinion).

The consumers of HN content have a healthy skepticism towards polarizing opinions, and as with all social media, have their guard up on what can be blindly trusted. This ban assumes your average HN-er cannot tell a fanboy apart from a neutral third party - which is not the case. Let opinions be, let the fanboys talk freely (as long as they're not impolite), and trust the HN audience to use their better judgement in drawing any conclusions. I don't think anyone assumes the top comment on any topic to be an endorsement by YC/HN, or it's users.

I can appreciate that it seems that way, but this person has been doing this for many years with dozens of accounts. If you saw what we see, I think you'd consider it abusive too, and I'm certain that the community as a whole would.

You don't have to look far through https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturf&sort=byDat... to see how many hours I've spent defending users accused of astroturfing and telling other users that they can't sling such accusations without evidence. That problem is actually far more serious than this one, in its corrosive effects. But the flip side is that it does occasionally happen that the evidence is so unequivocal that public banning is called for, and this is one of those cases.

I don't personally see why it matters if an account has a penchant for supporting one company. Optimally ideas would stand alone and be evaluated without consideration of the author. Thus it would be irrelevant if an account is a "shill."

Curious: Why do sites like HN and Reddit, those most vulnerable to abuse by multiple accounts, don’t require mandatory email or even phone verification?

Let people have multiple accounts for privacy if they want, but disallow multiple posts/comments/votes from the same person.

I can't speak for Reddit, but on HN the idea is not to place barriers in front of anyone who wants to join. If we demand that people jump through extra hoops, many will simply bail instead, including many who were inspired to jump in and comment because of something they saw on the site. That sort of spontaneous participation is precious. It keeps things fresh and makes HN more interesting. So although, yes, we incur a lot of costs (and pain) from spammers and trolls by being so open, the good things we gain are worth more.

To pick a couple of famous names, I doubt that Alan Kay or Peter Norvig would have bothered with HN if we'd placed up-front demands on them. Countless experts have shown up here over the years to create accounts and share firsthand about what they know. Here's a recent example that sticks in my mind: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22007115. It's particularly common for project creators or article authors to show up and comment on their work. We don't want to do anything to make that less likely.

HN is fortunate in that we're not under pressure to monetize users, squeeze more engagement out of them, or optimize them in any way. The factors that drive companies into corralling their users and eking information out of them don't apply here. The only thing we need to do is have HN be interesting. An open community, assuming it can be persuaded not to destroy itself, is more likely to be interesting.

I suppose because people _will_ get around these restrictions if they set their mind to it - so there may be slightly less spam, but at the cost of everybody's privacy.

Also, I'd suggest required phone/email as the end user seems to be a risk. For example my Twitter account is locked because I never gave a phone. Then a year later it comes out attackers can figure out your number. Not worth it to me.

Also, I can get an SMS over VIOP for cheap for a limited number of days. If I were an attacker the email/phone verification does nothing to stop me.

Because HN is where YC cloisters us idiots while the guys who know what they're doing are on YC BF.

Alright, what is YC BF anyways?

It stands for Bookface, which is a forum that Garry Tan created years ago for YC founders. It's a wonderful resource for the YC alumni network, but it's not an alternative to HN. Most YC alums are on both.

What's typical to see on Bookface are founders asking and answering questions about specific challenges, people launching their startups (that part is a bit overlappy with HN, but the discussions are smaller and I would say narrower), people looking to hire or get hired, people asking for intros, posts about apartments and offices for rent, announcements of events...that kind of thing.

> ...a healthy skepticism...

The fact that your comment's grandparent, of all comments, is the top one makes me doubt that optimistic outlook.

This makes it seem like you're banning him for supporting his company with a valid argument, and not for creating multiple accounts.

The former would constitute a moderator bias against Google (examples of moderation going the opposite way don't change anything about this particular instance), while the latter would be actual abuse. Although seems like creating multiple accounts doesn't lead to an automatic ban in every single instance, meaning latter is unlikely to be the case here.

Astroturfing would imply that he has a business motive while trying to conceal it as a grassroots comment. Purely from the content of his comment it doesn't seem like that's the case.

> Purely from the content of his comment it doesn't seem like that's the case

You can't judge this by a single comment, since the whole point of this abuse is to make posts that are indistinguishable from grassroots comments, while advancing an agenda. To see the agenda you have to look at patterns across comments. You can begin to see that at https://news.ycombinator.com/posts?id=notamanager, but to really see it you have to look across multiple accounts.

> examples of moderation going the opposite way don't change anything about this particular instance

It changes the general conclusion some readers might otherwise jump to or fear. A single prominent case of moderation is enough to get a lot of sincere users worried about bias, and a counterexample or two is often enough to soothe those worries. I don't want any sincere Googlers on HN (which is basically all of the Googlers on HN) to feel like they're unwelcome or need to change their participation in the site. Anyone who likes both Google and HN should be mad that someone would tarnish the one by poisoning the other.

> Astroturfing would imply that he has a business motive

We can't read motive directly. We can only look at behavior patterns. I look at it as a duck-typing thing: if an account walks and quacks like a corporate propagandist, the name fits, regardless of who they work for or what their job title is.

Edit: unfortunately, internet users are far too quick to perceive other users this way, so the vast majority of the time we have to tell them that the name does not fit—to such an extent that this is in the site guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) and perhaps the worst issue we face as moderators (https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturf&sort=byDat...) But still, sometimes it does fit, and dealing with such cases unequivocally is what enables us to make the contrary argument the rest of the time.

> This makes it seem like you're banning him for supporting his company with a valid argument

I'm not sure why it seems that way to you, but I appreciate your perspective and would be happy to hear more. I don't mean to imply that this is an easy issue. It's complex, and slippery to pin down in general. If you put the question as "is it a problem if someone is simply posting valid arguments in favor of their point of view?" it feels like the answer should be no. If you put it as "is it a problem if a specialist shows up with prepared talking points to influence any thread related to their agenda?", it feels like the answer should be yes. But those two things are almost the same, like a Russell conjugation. So how can we draw any line?

The best answer that I know is to look at all the evidence we have (some public, some not) and ask whether the account's behavior is consistent with the value of this site, which is intellectual curiosity. Single-purpose accounts tend not to be, so we don't allow those in general, especially when the single purpose is to advance the interests of some entity. When that pattern occurs repeatedly across multiple accounts, it fits the "does it walk like a duck" test for astroturfing, even if we don't know things like "is it paid" or "who they work for". Those questions aren't usually knowable and aren't intrinsically important. What matters is behavior on the site.

Thanks for the reply. I'm all for cracking down on abuse, especially when it's state-sponsored. And I understand moderator has more context than users.

I just wanted to point out how from an outsider perspective it looks like a bias, especially given that HN always seems to have an overwhelming amount of anti-Google content compared to other media sources (not that Google shouldn't be scrutinized - it should be).

> HN always seems to have an overwhelming amount of anti-Google content

I know it feels that way, but nearly always when people say this, it indicates how they feel on a topic (e.g. that in this case you feel pro-Google). People with the opposite feeling are guaranteed to have the opposite perception. In both cases it's a function of (a) the HN dataset is large and has a wide distribution, therefore (b) a lot of content appears here that strikes your feelings negatively, but (c) we remember those instances much more strongly, so (d) they accrue into an overall impression of the site.

I say 'you' but I don't mean you personally. We're all like this. Unfortunately it leads to a community in which people on all sides of every charged issue end up feeling like the community is hostile to them. I don't really know what to do about that other than post about it a lot.

Edit: the same bias affects how people feel about the mods, again in proportion to how intensely they feel about a topic.

Oh dang. Kudos. That is such a concise and well explained summary of the polarization in internet communities in general. I don’t think that you can do much about it though. Maybe, write a monthly post on your moderation work on HN that might help people see the opposite side.

At the end, people will have to develop the critical thinking skills required to reason about the way things feel to them.

I imagine you sometimes have reservations about whether to make a moderation decision public, like the one in this thread, but seeing these judgements is always a reminder of how the moderation here is a huge part of what makes this site a special place, regardless of whether I happen to agree with the decision at hand. Thanks for your transparency and good faith.

> This makes it seem like you're banning him for supporting his company with a valid argument,

With an account that exclusively posts in support of said company? While not disclosing that he is getting paid by said company (even if not directly for the posts) ? Isn't that outright illegal in some places?

Not to derail things further, but can you provide us more details about this astroturfing? How do you know who this person is? What is the background story here?

Sounds interesting...

Unfortunately I can't give details to you without also giving them to astroturfers who would use them to make HN worse. Here are a couple of previous examples though:



It goes back many years before that.

I'm actually quite interested in what about this comment rates the label of astroturfing. Is "astroturfing" now like "gaslighting", that is a word that has lost whatever objective meaning it once had? Are all people with a financial stake in Google required to disclose that at the end of their remarks? If so, dang would have a field day banning accounts that post in Tesla threads.

As a person who is now on my 50th HN account, I find the moderation policies here capricious and arbitrary.

It's not about the content of any single post; the point of astroturfing is to make that indistinguishable. It's about patterns of behavior, some of which are publicly visible and some not. When someone is using HN to advance the interests of a particular corporation, that's not good-faith community membership, and it breaks the organizing principle of this site—intellectual curiosity—egregiously.

Re your accounts, I'm not sure what has felt capricious and arbitrary to you, but from my perspective it's simply a matter of following the site guidelines and using HN in the intended spirit. We discussed that at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22173082 (but also https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22359424). If there's some aspect of moderation that still isn't transparent to you (or anyone!) I'm happy to do my best to explain, and even happier to correct any mistakes. But it would be better to send those to hn@ycombinator.com.

"Astroturfing" is a political concept. It's about making a top-down initiative appear to be a bottom-up one instead. Fake "grassroots". AstroTurf, see?

What you're talking about, as best as I can tell, is called "fanboyism" -- individual devotion characterized by unusually strong vocality and blindness to contradictory evidence.

Fanboys are extremely common in tech, but usually associated with companies that make products with particularly elegant design (Apple, Tesla) or with a strong sociopolitical component to their identity.

It's a familiar distinction. You've expressed it particularly well. We don't have the real-world information about users that would be needed to make such calls with certainty (nor would we want it!), but based on what I've seen, I don't believe it's fanboyism in this case.

More importantly, it's a distinction without a difference in cases like this. When someone is using dozens of accounts to post corporate propaganda to HN over many years, they're abusing the site and we ban them.

I've been posting here for 8 years, and have never noticed moderation until one of the moderators points it out like the top of this thread.

Further, I have been posting on /. and other forums since the 90's and have never been banned.

If you are on your 51st account here, perhaps the problem is you and not with the people running the show.

The reason I’m on my zillionth account isn’t because of comments of mine, but because somehow my ex-wife’s IP is radioactive and if I happen to load HN on my mobile while on her wifi and waiting for my kids the account I’m logged into gets silently hell-banned. Dang has promised it won’t happen again.

My first HN account name was my full real name. I have a three-digit slashdot user number and that account also uses my real full name. I believe in communities online.

That's not quite consistent with my understanding of the situation. But yes, if you follow the site guidelines and stick to a consistent account, we won't ban you. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22176413


Please don't cross into personal attack on HN.


Or perhaps I am a mature adult who knows how to engage in discourse without the melodramatic angst of a child.

Sounds about right. Keep up the good work. Obviously I've much to learn.

As a person literally just used as an example of moderation practices above, I think dang and sctb do a really good job here. There's a lot of weird lines they have to walk. For example, that while Googlers defending their company can be astroturfing, Googlers also know a lot about Google and can contribute original info and answers others can't.

The HN guidelines haven't changed significantly in a long time, and dang and sctb miss a lot because HN is huge and nobody can read every comment, but they do a pretty good job when they step in. If you're on your 50th account, perhaps you should see if you can modify your posting to stay afloat of the rules. (On your 51st account, presumably, since you just told one of the moderators you're an account evading a ban.) And if you have questions or concerns about moderation, or feel you were unfairly impacted, there's a contact email in the footer and they're actually really good dudes you can talk to.

It baffles me why someone banned 49 times would want to participate the 50th time. This is like being kicked out of someone's house and coming in a different disguise each time.

At some point I'd just conclude they don't want me there and walk away.

Thanks for reframing that as something valuable about HN. I should think of it that way more often!

I don't know about any other similarities, but "astroturfing" and "gaslighting" are English words that share this in common: they both have a useful meanings that seems to be primarily used correctly and in context; however they also are bandied about in non-canonical ways by a much smaller number of people with high repetition.

I'm really curious, do you feel that your (assuming they were) bans #1-49 were unjustified? If so, could you expand on why that's the case?

If it’s true ‘astroturfing’ then it could easily be a professional operation.

If it's true astroturfing then it is by definition a professional operation. Astroturfing has to be directed by an institutional authority, otherwise it actually is grassroots.

Single-purpose accounts driving an agenda in a deceptive way aren't necessarily institutional. Normally I wouldn't quibble about definitions, but since I used the word astroturfing above, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying they work for Google. We don't know that, and for HN anti-abuse purposes, it doesn't matter.

They could work for a law firm or some other subcontractor of Google without Google actually knowing about it.

Thank you for doing this.

You're correct it's unremarkable a company would want to limit it's production of documents in accordance with their rights to do so under federal and state rules.

It's super, and I mean super, fucked up that you turn around and accused the the other side of corruption with literally no evidence that it is true.

It's beyond super fucked up that HN thinks OPs answer adds any actual insight to this conversation, as opposed to utterly unsupported insinuations.

OP could be right, but we should all be doing better here, from the WSJ to the people upvoting this garbage.

I don't know. The second line is a bit sketchy, but an AG having the MPAA ghostwrite things for him seems like pretty good support for an insinuation that private interests are manipulating the investigation. Maybe the term "corruption" is too loaded, but would you agree that the AGs are investigating Google based in part on how third party groups would like the investigation to go?

Not the OP but at this level (a trillion dollar company) there’s definitely a third-party involved. I don’t particularly see anything wrong with that per se (I kind of see as “wrong” the part where we have three or four companies which are worth close to one trillion or more, but that’s another discussion), it is just a translation of the “checks and balances” thing from the party- and democracy-level to the corporate level (which corporate level might use parts of the old system for itself, in this case presumably the AG office). It’s not an ideal situation if you compare it to what the Founding Fathers might have desired but it is what it is.

I broadly agree with what you’re saying, but I think it’s misleading to sum it up as a lack of corruption. This kind of thing is exactly why Google would be hesitant to give up documents; they know that for many people on the other side of the table, the primary mission is hurting Google rather than upholding the law.

Indeed. My first reaction to the headline was to say "I wouldn't be surprised at all that Google was doing uncompetitive stuff, but just pushing back on discovery doesn't mean anything". Then I read the comments and saw the same one you're reacting to and wasn't sure if I should vote it up for the relevant first point or not because of the other points.

Moreover, this is hardly an isolated case. Google juggles multiple major anticompetitive & similar cases at all times, in multiple jurisdictions. They've lost several.

That's the wider context.

They haven't lost any actually, if you're referring to EU enforcement then that stuff in unilateral, a court isn't involved so technically they couldn't lose.

As for background if state AGs have ulterior motives then so does the EU many folds.

The Washington Post article linked above mentions that the Texas AG is using his google probe to solicit donations in his reelection emails.

Here is a NYT article about how state AGs get used by company lawyers to go after competitors with money exchanging hands (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/us/politics/lawyers-creat...)

Here is the one about the Mississippi AG used by the movie industry to go after google (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/20/technology/google-attorne...)

The WSJ is a not an uninterested party in this case, and this is but one example of them misquoting and spinning reports to attack google (https://searchengineland.com/misquoted-and-misunderstood-why...)

Suggests that the probe is popular with the constituents who elected them. Anti-trust probes are a very popular form of oversight, in case that isn't blindingly obvious.

It doesn't mean they aren't corrupt and wrong. Many things the government does have been popular and wrong.

It doesn’t mean they are.

> Suggests that the probe is popular with the constituents who elected them.

Could you please clarify if you mean the donors, the voters, or both?

Both, and they aren't mutually exclusive either.

> they aren't mutually exclusive either.

This is technically true but misleading, as it's generally assumed that "the voters" means the >99% of the electorate who are not rich enough to make individual demands of candidates in return for campaign contributions. (And "donors" mostly means corporations, which thankfully do not get to vote, although there are a few people (ie, technically voters) who are rich enough personally to bribe candidates.)

Whether you like it or not, the fact here is that it isn't clear whether Google resisting or AGs demanding docs is the right thing here or not. So stop being so melodramatic about it and using such strong words.

You're right, it's an outrage to suggest the current administration might be involved in less than pristine legal behavior!

> You're right, it's an outrage to suggest the current administration might be involved in less than pristine legal behavior!

While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I think it is premature to assume that the executive branch of federal government is somehow behind state Attorney Generals' fishing expeditions.

While I'm not making a statement on either side in this case...

A situation where one side is corrupt or doing things wrong does not mean the other side is right or not corrupt. Both sides are capable of doing wrong and corrupt things.

Sure but defendants (which they aren't even) are presumed innocent and the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Also that's not how the WSJ is presenting this or anything else they publish about google.

Criminal defendants, not civil.

> > Sure but defendants are presumed innocent and burden of proof is on the prosecution.

> Criminal defendants, not civil.

Everyone hates presumption of innocence when they are on the plaintiff/accuser's side. But strangely enough, everyone clings to it when they're on the defendant/accused's side. It's almost like it's a universal principle!


Make no mistake. Anyone who wants to erode presumption of innocence and due process is for the power of governments and money over the individual, unwittingly or not. (Strangely enough, almost everyone who tries such erosion does it in the same way, no matter if they're in a totalitarian state or in a democracy; it's all done in the name of "justice.")

Personally, I dont believe businesses should be treated as people legally, though I understand some of the complexity involved and why this is currently, mostly the case.

Businesses are entities and should be treated significantly different since as abstract/artificial human constructs, they have no real notion of life, death, hardship, hunger, disease, etc. and are able to act accordingly based on these relaxed constraints whereas humans do need to deal with these aspects.

Any notion of these human concerns reflected in a business exist only due to businesses being composed of and controlled by humans. Business decisions don't have to and often don't reflect regular human concerns. That relaxed constraint allows them certain competitive advantages over humans.

Those competitive advantages are then exploited purely as a proxy for some arbitrarily privileged humans, allowing them to push their personal desires on the world with losses minimally effecting their primary human concerns.

That common proxy relationship use needs to have more accountability that leads back to the humans playing the business puppets, otherwise, the punishments are not nearly equivalent in impact on life of a business entity vs an individual.

So individuals should be afforded certain rights, but when they work together as a group, those rights should be taken away?

A business as a legal fiction != a union of all of its members.

People don't realize that. A corporation is a standalone entity. And yes, there is nothing inconsistent about a business being held to a more strict standard of disclosure than an individual. I.e. You can plead the Fifth. A Corporation cannot. When a search warrant is issued for all documents of/relating to/pertaining to X created or transacted between dates Y and Z, you don't get to withhold them because it might seem to incriminate the company. That's the price of the corporate superpower of the corporation being able to die/fold/be punished and everyone else being able to go home unharmed except for needing to find a new job; possibly at a new company already established, funded and poised to buy out the assets of the old corporation that's being liquidated.

Corporations are not people in the Constitutional sense. You can't take the HOV lane just because you are carrying the Articles of Incorporation for your company. Check with a lawyer by all means, I'm not one, but I've read enough case law and other stuff to feel confident I've at least got this part right.

A group of people working together is a partnership. And those people have all the usual rights and liabilities that people have generally.

Larry and Sergei could have founded Google as an unlimited liability partnership, but they preferred to incorporate. So Google has to follow the rules that come with incorporation.

Incorporation was a free choice. There was an alternative. Nobody's rights are being infringed.

The entire concept of the corporation is to make it less likely the people involved will be imprisoned or directly take risk based on their mistakes. They willingly take the advantages that come with incorporation, they should lose something. As it stands, anyone in a corporation is a first-class citizen while everyone else is treated as lesser under the law.

businesses aren't on trial. it's their owners / directors / responsible parties who are on trial, and those are 'private individuals' - they might be held accountable for their business or business practices, but the idea a business is on trial is silly. and now we know 'people' are actually on trial, it's more logical to say they should be treated as individuals....

> businesses aren't on trial. it's their owners / directors / responsible parties who are on trial, and those are 'private individuals'

While it's very rare that a company is on trial it does happen. Partially in rather prominent cases[1]

There is such a thing as a corporate death penalty.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Andersen

(Totally unrelated, but I've added ">" to the start of your comment so it didn't get formatted as code and thus break the layout of the page. Not your fault - this is a bug of ours. Perhaps the most commonly complained about bug.)

Thanks Dan,

I'll try to adhere to it when quoting in the future.

It's just that I always thought that courier font looks so cool for quoting.

But at the end of the day it should be legible, without scrolling around.

Presumption of innocence is a right, ie something people, not corporations, have.

Presumption of innocence is something any defendant has in a fair trial.

WSJ does not claim google is guilty in this article. The title is factual. What would you suggest they title the article? "anything else they publish about google" is pretty wildly hyperbolic, and obviously false.

The comments aren't just by the WSJ. It's many other new publications and many intelligent people who aren't afraid to speak out. The number of voices speaking out is increasing.

The WSJ and "other publication" aren't disinterested parties in all this, they have filed complaints against Google and they are unashamedly lobbying for laws that would exempt them from being subject to antitrust rules both individually and part of lobbying groups such as newsmediaalliance.org.

Newspapers are businesses and they compete with Google. You should scrutinize their motives and the motives of those so called "intelligent people" you mention.

Obsess much? Google is in no danger of being taken down by HN commenters.

>Fun fact 3: AGs are elected so they seek publicity, they are also corrupt: the one in Mississippi was issuing subpoenas to Google on behalf of the entertainment industry (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141217/06353329462/attor...)

This may be an example of corruption in an Attorney General's (AG) office, it does not prove that all AG's are corrupt because they are elected (of which, public relations is a requirement).

counter example: Letitia James


One may not agree with her actions, however, corruption it is not.

>they are also corrupt: the one in Mississippi was issuing subpoenas to Google on behalf of the entertainment industry

Assuming your allegation is true, an AG was serving subpoenas on behalf of Google and that makes all AGs corrupt...then it goes without saying that if just one Googler has ever engaged in one bad act or act of corruption, then all Googlers are bad or corrupt.

I am not sure that is the standard you want to apply.

>AGs are elected so they seek publicity

Well nothing would gain an AG more publicity than deviating from the other AGs and exposing this case as having no merit and simply a collusion of 49 State AGs in an attempt to collectively seek publicity for their reelections. Of course Google's army of lawyers could expose the same and win Google's attorney's fees from the State, which would be negative publicity...so its pretty far fetched what you allege without any evidence.

Of course if you really cared or wanted to know if Google engages in anti-competitive practices try to Google a flight from your location to another city anywhere on the Earth and tell me what pops up first? Is it an organic result? Is it an paid ad? Or is it another Alphabet product embedded into the top of the results driving all internet traffic looking for flights to their self owned product? This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the reality of Alphabet unfairly using Google's market dominance in an anti-competitive way.

The solution is clear, at minimum Alphabet should not be able to buy/bid up Google AdWords, but the better solution would be Alphabet products/services should not be able to appear in Google results at all (or at least on page 1). The beauty of this solution, if/when Google complains that the internet won't be able to search/find their products, Alphabet can be reminded that of course the internet can find their products, through competitor search engines which are only 1 click away.

I don't think many are worried that Google won't defend itself.

Re: the other points... Are you implying that current trust-related investigations and such are mostly bogus?

Google defends itself against trustbusting constantly: Android, adwords... the platform businesses. It has lost cases & earned record-breaking fines. €5bn is just not a dealbreaker for Google.

They expect these occasionally because Google's main MO is prone to it, at their scale. Their platform businesses are exactly the "monopolies" Peter Thiel described as the goal of modern business. The whole point of antitrust is to dampen monopolies. It shouldn't be surprising they collide.

I don't really understand the counterargument to pursuing much more decisive antitrust legislation & control, myself. It seems like a clear win.

I suppose it may very well be the case that the framing of resists giving documents will lead some people to think of it similarly to resisting arrest, but I would have to think those people were idiots.

I think it means they have some documents they don't want to give up. What that means I don't really know, it could mean they have something to hide, but then again it could be they just want to make things difficult for the people they consider their opponents - as I would.

You should disclose whether you work for Google. You've registered less than 24 hours ago and in all of your posts you defend Google.

I don't.

How about declaring any conflict of interest what-so-ever? any connections or vested interest?

> AGs are elected so they seek publicity, they are also corrupt

I might also add incompetent and narcissist.

Fun Fact 4: Everyone, that is everyone which includes Google has due process rights which I feel should be exercised by everyone. Next what ? > "Man charged with murder resists punishment by pleading non guilty in court".

By this metric Google is corrupt simply by seeking a profit.

WaPo is compromised. I believe most major US News organizations have lost their objectivity. Ironically I blame this on Google and co. with their capture of nearly all online advertising and the inevitable click bait sensationalism it's produced.

It's not going to get better any time soon. Karma I guess.

"“resists giving documents” purposely makes it similar to “resisting arrest”."

No, there is no resonance between those two things.

Google isn't giving up documents, that's what the headline says, and it's perfectly fair.

Your other 'fun facts' are equally disputable.

Fun fact 4: OP (notamanager) account is brand new, these are his first posts (not that its not probable), yet, here he/she is with all the fun facts and actively commenting and making a investigative counter case.

If you have an issue with the content of the OP's comments, you should address it directly. Dismissing a comment because an account is new is weak.

If that was true, HN wouldn’t make their name green. The fact that their name is green is an indicator from HN that their comments should be scrutinized.

Great. Now do that. Scrutinize. Rather than complain. All three points the OP made are entirely factual statements. If you detect bias, please inform us why?

Throwaway accounts are discouraged in the site guidelines:

>Throwaway accounts are ok for sensitive information, but please don't create accounts routinely. HN is a community—users should have an identity that others can relate to.

This user isn't revealing sensitive information, and it seems like they are trying to hide a conflict of interest.

This is like the definition of ad hominem. Engage the argument, why does it matter who is presenting it?

I rest my case. As you see he is banned.

The community guidelines are addressed by other users below...

- THE name is green for a reason. - OP can declare in a public domain that he has no conflict of interest by any direct or indirect means.

As a long time member of this community, it is a simple and just request. You may choose to diverge the attention elsewhere for your own motives or beliefs.

OP: please declare that you are free from any conflict of interest.

Thank You.

Well, are they facts or falsehoods?

> Company is reluctant to surrender some documents in investigation of possible anticompetitive practices

This would be true of any company. It would even be true for many individuals.

This article is nothing more than a bulletin updating us on the latest developments in the case, painted up to look like more than it is.

This article is nothing more than a bulletin updating us on the latest developments in the case

It's called a "process" article. Some small thing happens in the process of a larger event, and it's updated. It helps the publication later if research has to be done into what happened and what the coverage was. It also indicates to its avid readers that it's following the event long-term and "on" whatever happens.

It's just normal journalism. But since the majority of people on HN consume their news in bits and bites here and there, and random headlines, they don't understand the benefit.

painted up to look like more than it is.

That's more of a matter of opinion than of fact. Sometimes extra background is added to a process story for the benefit of people coming in for the first time, or who will only read a few reports about an event over a period of months or years.

/Was a journalist for 20 years in a previous life.

> That's more of a matter of opinion than of fact.

While the title is technically true, my initial interpretation was that Google was refusing to comply with a demand which they were legally obligated to meet. Turns out it was a request which they were well within their legal rights to deny.

Sure, this is my opinion, but I'd definitely consider that to be a misleading title. This article is probably only on the HN front page because it is misleading.

"Google denies request to provide documents in investigation of anticompetitive practices" is a better title.

Thanks for the background, that was stuff I didn't know.

What do you do in your current life?

This article is nothing more than a bulletin updating us on the latest developments in the case, painted up to look like more than it is.

In recent years, since journalists are motivated by clicks/eyeballs, and such things are most easily garnered by outrage, such emotional bias in reporting has sadly become the norm.

Appeal to biological instinct to hate and love is always the quickest way to get clicks.

The side effect being everything is us vs them nowadays.

Nah dude, just normal journalism and dumb HNs don't understand the benefit :)

Google has a long history of pushing back for on government requests for data relating to its customers, and they have years worth of history establishing that initial government requests are always overreaching.

Is anyone surprised that they'd push back on requests for their own data, especially when it's run by state AGs (i.e. politically motivated) and involves turning trade secrets directly over to competitors?

> “To date, Texas has requested, and we have provided, over 100,000 pages of information,” the spokeswoman said. “But we’re also concerned with the irregular way this investigation is proceeding, including unusual arrangements with advisers who work with our competitors and vocal complainants."

> advisers who work with our competitors and vocal complainants.

Isn't that kind of to be expected in an investigation into anti-competitive practices though?

I'd say "unusual" implies not "to be expected".

WSJ is the origin of the story (even Forbes links to them as being the source). How is it clickbait? Also, the title on the WSJ article right now is: "Google Resists Demand From States in Digital-Ad Probe". Also from the article:

> Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the investigation by 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, said the company’s actions suggest it is withholding information that could be damaging.

> “Every indication right now is they don’t believe that they’re clean because they don’t act in any way like they are,” Mr. Paxton said in an interview.

There are lots of responses from Google's side of the aisle about why they think they are in the right, but this is just a battle of he-said she-said until they go to court to fight it out.

(I'm a googler, opinions are my own)

Clickbait can be true and still be clickbait because it picks out a single controversial sounding aspect of a story and uses that to draw people in.

There can be a an actual reason that Google is not giving up documents immediately, which is brought up. I don't expect any company/person to give up everything willingly to 3rd parties.

Immediate reason for not giving up documents: Google is worried about leaks involving their search algorithms, which are very closely guarded (and for good reason - it's been their bread & butter up to now.)

This is going to be interesting to watch, as the 'States might successfully argue that to properly understand if anticompetitive behavior took place, they need to open up the hood to the car, so to speak, and take a look at what's underneath...

I think a lot of people would disagree that they should be allowed to keep their search algorithms secret at this juncture. The impact that this proprietary decisionmaker has on global business with no oversight is insane.

There's a bunch of other search engines out there; no one is forcing you to use Google search. Duckduckgo, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, etc. are all viable alternatives. If Google needs to open-source their search algorithms, then why shouldn't all their competitors?

Their competitors aren't monopolies.

The problem is that I don't use Google Search, but Google Search still impacts me in a way I can't control. Even if I use DuckDuckGo, my business lives or dies on what Google Search ranks it. Google is the ultimate kingmaker. They decide what businesses survive or die.

The amount of proprietary stuff that has immense impact on global business (with no oversight) is huge: 1. Microsoft Windows 2. Microsoft Office

I think any big tech company falls into this. And unlike google search, there is no alternative for Microsoft windows. You can change your search engine and keep using a new one without any trouble or training. Off course, you can say that the others are not good enough, but companies don't get dismantled because competitors are not good enough. Switching from MS windows is alas, not possible. The main thing is the large number of applications available for it and not for other platforms, and also needs significantly more training than switching away from Google search.

>The amount of proprietary stuff that has immense impact on global business (with no oversight) is huge...

The issue isn't market share alone - it's whether or not the company leverages that in an anti-competitive way. Ex: installing Microsoft Office on a Mac doesn't uninstall Numbers or Keynote off your machine. Or installing the Outlook app on Android doesn't ask you to switch your default email client every time you open the app. However, try using Google Search in Edge or Safari and you'll see a bunch of ads and tool tips pushing the user to install Chrome. Or see the reported cases of Edge users not being able to play on Google Stadia unless they switch to Chrome.

> And unlike google search, there is no alternative for Microsoft windows.

Google Docs / Apple iWork Suite (Numbers, Pages, Keynote, etc.) would disagree.

> Google Docs / Apple iWork Suite (Numbers, Pages, Keynote, etc.) would disagree.

None of these are replacements for Windows, the Operation system, which is what I claimed.

> it's whether or not the company leverages that in an anti-competitive way

Yeah, so a company silently changing your search engine in a competitor's browser on update of unrelated software is engaging in the worst kind of uncompetitive behaviour, which is what Microsoft is doing.

Using google search doesn't install Chrome magically on your machine. It is an ad, and like any other company, Google is allowed to run ads.

Also, search for Google chrome on bing, and you would see a giant popup telling you to download Edge.

Honestly, I can't recall one bad thing that Google does, that Microsoft doesn't do worse. Fortunately, Microsoft could never have a foothold in the online advertising market, so they don't have any use of as much user data so far, although they do collect all sorts of telemetry from almost all their products, and in windows you can't even disable all of that.

Google notes...

> “But we’re also concerned with the irregular way this investigation is proceeding, including unusual arrangements with advisers who work with our competitors and vocal complainants."

There are two interesting things, to me, about this. First, as Google has expanded into many more things it's hard to find consulting technologists who don't complete with Google in some manner. For example, Google has a web site builder for businesses. It could be argued any web developer is a competitor.

Second, the language use of "irregular" and "unusual" is interesting. I wonder what is unusual here. The specifics. Or, is this language meant to make us feel or think something. The US government regularly uses contractors and consultants. Is that unusual in investigations like this? How unusual are investigations like this?

> First, as Google has expanded into many more things it's hard to find consulting technologists who don't complete with Google in some manner.

You could say that, but no such stretching is needed in this case. News Corp has been a vocal opponent of Google for some time. It's not a case of a lawyer working on something that happened to be in a business that Google competes in.

> It's not a case of a lawyer working on something that happened to be in a business that Google competes in.

In the Forbes link Google talks about competitors. The legal folks from News Corp would be in a different category to that.

I appreciate the desire and arguably the need to have different people at the news organizations and people pushing for causes (e.g., going after Google for potential abuses or issues). I do with new organizations were more interested in reporting the news and not making the news, if that makes sense.

I guess there are two different sorts of advisers they are talking about. "Vocal complainants" seems to refer to the former News Corp lawyer who is advising the case. Advisers who work with competitors is presumably referring to technical consulting firms working on the case. It's not clear which competitors they work for, but presumably Google is not objecting to a consulting firm that also works with, say, Costco, on the theory that Costco is a competitor in the electronics sales market. That would be pretty thin, and Google would have no reason to object. Presumably Google is referring to a consulting firm that works heavily with e.g. Microsoft or Oracle.

The submitted title was "Google resists giving up documents in investigation of anticompetitive practices". Not sure if WSJ rewrote it or the submitter did, but we've changed to the article title now, as the site guidelines ask.


Well yeah ... any good lawyer or legal team will do everything they can to prevent a fishing expedition. And yes, private individuals and companies are allowed to defend themselves.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that a government run by the party that is suppose to be hands off and “pro business” is going after a company run by “left coast liberal elites”?

>Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the investigation by 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam

If this is a politically motivated attack on the left, why have so many jurisdictions that are controlled by the left leaning party joining in the investigation?

I hope you’re not thinking that I think government intervention is good because it’s the Democrats. I think they truly believe that government intervention is good. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Google is in the unfortunate position that Republicans don’t like them because they are bunch of “hippy liberals” and Democrats are well Democrats.

More accurately, the party is pro free market - which makes sense that a Republican-led government would want to enforce anti-competition or antitrust laws.

That said, in theory at least, the US Justice Department is supposed to be unbiased and not directed by the whims of the parties.

Traditionally, Republican administration don’t block mergers and they don’t try to break up companies.

The Justice Department has never been unbiased. I don’t recall any scandals where the justice department were obviously been manipulated by a Democratic President (I’m not putting it past them), but there have been many reports about Bush II and Trump.

But even if it is not stated, the Justice departments more or less goes after cases along party lines.

You could argue that anticompetitive is not pro-business.

What I don't understand is, if the Republican party is anti-competitive, why haven't they fought against many of the other monopolies that exist. The targeting of Google is... suspicious.

It’s pro “Big business”. Politicians pay lip service to “small businesses” but they don’t care about them. Small businesses don’t donate huge sums of money to PACs.

Why should Republicans care about startups run by tech bro’s being squashed by big companies? It’s not like they will be able to donate large sums to PACs and they are probably hippy liberals too.

Neither of the parties in our political duopoly are hands off.

No. You are correct in pointing out politics is a factor which is unfortunate. Trump wishes to punish Google for not helping him with another election. You won't see any articles on Oracle or Facebook and antitrust because they are currently supporting him.

Suspicious? No. Obvious? Yes.

Not Google, but part of the overall strategy:

"“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships."


Conservatism is pro free market.

Google has destroyed free market in programmatic ads.

Arguably a giant no-holds-barred antitrust litigation every 15 years (Republican way) is better than onerous legislation that always ends up entrenching the incumbents (Democratic way).

Weird take. What was the case you are thinking of from fifteen years ago? Microsoft was prosecuted by the Clinton administration twice, in 1994 and 1998.

Policies of Clinton administration 1994 would be a Republican administration today.

When was the last time a Republican administration went after a company for anti trust regulation.

For the record, I was just as opposed to government intervention when it came to MS. History shows that the market took care of that. The government had nothing to do with the rise of Amazon, Facebook, Google and the resurgence of Apple to take away MS’s influence on tech.

Google has way too much power in the Online Ads biz. Period. This can't go on like that.

If the entire third party ad serving market imploded how would that be a bad thing?

Besides the usual pathos of all the folks losing their jobs, there's a whole subsection of the internet that would disappear / severely shrink.

You might argue that it probably wouldn't be a huge loss but that would be your perspective there.

Nevermind the fact that the ad serving market, once you remove FB/Google/AMZN, is actually quite broad and diverse, especially in the display/programmatic world.

This being said, Chrome recent announcement wrt privacy & 3rd party cookies might be the final blow for a lot of indies. Not that I disagree with you and I believe a culling and a new approach is required, one that purposely avoid the SV giants and centralisation of data.

So if we are worried about people losing their jobs, should we also care if the environment makes it harder for telemarketers?

Besides if your income is dependent on third party ads, what happens as more people start using ad blockers? A content blocking framework has been built into iOS for 5 years. I haven’t seen a Google ad in half a decade.

I also don’t have a problem with first party ads controlled by the site or podcast ads.

That being said, I put my money where my mouth is. I pay for ad free streaming services and will buy an in app purchase in apps to avoid ads.

Now that Ben Thompson (Stratechery) is offering a podcast version of his Daily Update, I’m thinking about buying a subscription to his newsletter.

Are you sure the "market" did that?

There were massive campaigns against it plus antitrust rulings in the EU.

To this day there is people out there suffering the consequences of MS' policies.

Same for Intel and others.

If the US and EU had not stepped in, what would MS done differently to stop the rise of the current big tech companies?

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

"It is possible that information could be made available to the authorities."

- Former Google CEO, Google Chairman and Alphabet CEO

Perhaps statements that could apply to David could apply equally to Goliath.

> “But we’re also concerned with the irregular way this investigation is proceeding, including unusual arrangements with advisers who work with our competitors and vocal complainants."

Isn't it typical for regulators to work with competitors of the company accused of antitrust violations? Who is better positioned to identify abuses of the market leader? It's regulators' job to assess what about the reports actually is an abuse.

While I think a lot of this hubbub is motivated by political grudges, I can't help thinking that we would all be better off if the current generation of popular computers (phones, tablets etc) somehow allowed third party app stores.

Android does allow third party app stores though.

The same way Windows allowed third party browsers.

Yet it was anticompetitive.

Well, yes, for device manufacturers. But what if users could choose their own? Or what if multiple were permitted?

Users can install app stores as well. See fdroid and the Amazon App Store.

Users can choose their own app stores.

You personally can install F-Driod.

I'm not sure that third party app stores would really address much at all as far as the nature of Google's competitiveness.

It is incomplete because Google Play Services contains functionality closed to developers, unrelated to the free online services provided by Google.

Your point stands, nevertheless.

Amazon App Store F-Droid APKPure Aptoide QooApp

It is common for them to respond to their requests.

I suspect Google thinks it is more than that.

Maybe outside the lawsuit they're encountering telling someone asking for something and they say "No you can't have that." and the next day they get a copy and paste of the same request via this other investigation?

Granted that's speculation but I suspect there is a fine line between a legit investigation and someone driving the government wheel who is simply a competitor.

“Google hasn’t agreed to a waiver that would give state attorneys general documents obtained by the U.S. Justice Department for its own investigation, the Journal said, citing a “person familiar with the situation.”“

Google got to be feeling the heat now that their guy and his #2 had to recuse from the investigation.


Anyone have an outlined version of the article?

Private browsing isn't cutting it for some reason.

History is repeating itself: IBM, then MS, and now Google.

Meta: Do the majority of people on HN have WSJ subscriptions? Or is there some other way to view these articles? I see something from the WSJ get to the front page at least once every couple weeks. My gut tells me that either people just only read & comment on the first paragraph, or they're reading the articles for free some other way.

Users nearly always post workarounds in the threads. You can find such a link in this thread. Admittedly it can be a pain to look for, once many comments have appeared.

I pay money for the WSJ, in my opinion it's the best newspaper available today. Washington Post is a distant second.

You can usually get around paywalls using http://archive.is

I have a WSJ subscription. I don't know of any easy way around their paywall, makes it one of the special cases for scraping because you would actually need to login.

The Motto that comes to mind is DONT BE EVIL

Or how about google going off script. If they're not careful, they'll get a sequel using an updated plot twist.


Sad that UE allowed google monopoly to grown in Europe, instead of limiting its access to the market as much as possible and allowing European competition to grown like China did.

No, it's not sad at all that the EU didn't 'limit Google's access'. What's sad is that Europe can't compete in these things on it's own.

Now - you could make a strong argument that G shouldn't be allowed to own have mobile, search, ads, maps etc. which creates altogether another kind of monopoly, but, there's no need to swing the ball so far as to 'limit access'.

Is it just me or is it kind of ironic that another headline today involves Google's sort of fast and loose behavior related to being the dominant browser on the market?

I doubt it's a coincidence. I think people are just primed to upvote similar stories like that; it's not like they're both on the front page of CNN or even the Register.

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