OLD Media Moves

When CNET was banned by Google

June 6, 2020

Posted by Chris Roush

Elinor Mills of CNET writes about the time that the tech news site was banned by Google.

Mills writes, “After I pitched the story to my editor, Jim Kerstetter, I spent a month researching and reporting the ins and outs of Google’s products and policies, trying to understand what data the company collected and how that info was used. One criticism that’d been leveled at the company was its cavalier attitude toward complaints from people haunted by compromising personal details exposed by its massive search engine. Such data included infractions committed by minors, or cases where defendants were later exonerated. Eric Schmidt‘s response — he was Google’s CEO at the time — was that Google was merely a conduit, and that websites listing the information were responsible for deletion requests. As I was starting to write the article, News Editor Scott Ard stopped by my desk. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he suggested that I google Schmidt to see what types of information I could find.

“So I did. My story opened with a rundown of things that a short Google search had revealed about Schmidt, such as his net worth, his home town, his fundraiser for Al Gore that Elton John performed at, and his trip to Burning Man. The day after the article was published, Ard got a call from a top corporate communications spokesman at Google complaining that the article was unfair and violated Schmidt’s privacy. He demanded that we remove it. When editors refused, the spokesman said that as a result, Google wouldn’t be talking to CNET for a year.

“What a way to start a new beat! I was three months into my new job and had alienated the main company I was covering. Ard, Kerstetter and Editor-in-Chief Jai Singh gave me their full support, but I wondered how I was going to do my job. My reporting was definitely hindered; every Google story I wrote thereafter had this line: ‘Google did not return calls and emails seeking comment for this story.'”

Read more here.

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