Tag Archives: Public Policy

AG Paxton’s misleading attack on our ad tech business

In December, Texas Attorney General Paxton filed a complaint about our ad tech business and hired contingency-fee plaintiff lawyers to handle the case. We look forward to showing in court why AG Paxton’s allegations are wrong. But given some of the misleading claims that have been circulating—in particular, the inaccurate portrayal of our well-publicized “Open Bidding” agreement with Facebook—we wanted to set the record straight.  

About our ad services 

Ad tech helps websites and apps make money and fund high-quality content. It also helps our advertising partners—most of whom are small merchants—reach customers and grow their businesses.  

AG Paxton tries to paint Google’s involvement in this industry as nefarious. The opposite is true. Unlike some B2B companies in this space, a consumer internet company like Google has an incentive to maintain a positive user experience and a sustainable internet that works for all—consumers, advertisers and publishers.

For example, as we’ve built our ad tech products, we have given people granular controls over how their information is used to personalize ads and limited the sharing of personal data to safeguard people’s privacy. We’ve invested in detecting and blocking harmful ads that violate our policies. We also build tools that load content and ads faster; block scammy ad experiences like pop-ups; and reduce the number of intrusive, annoying ads through innovations like skippable ads. Those tools not only help people, but by building trust, promote the sustainability of the free and open internet. 

We’ve worked to be open and upfront with the industry about the improvements we make to our technologies. We try to do the right thing as we balance the concerns of publishers, advertisers, and the people who use our services. Our ad tech rivals and large partners may not always like every decision we make—we’re never going to be able to please everybody. But that’s hardly evidence of wrongdoing and certainly not a credible basis for an antitrust lawsuit.

Here are just a few of the things AG Paxton’s complaint gets wrong:

Myth: Google “dominates the online advertising landscape for image-based web display ads.”
Fact: The ad tech industry is incredibly crowded and competitive.

Competition in online advertising has made ads more affordable and relevant, reduced ad tech fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.

The online advertising space is famously crowded. We compete with household names like Adobe, Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Oracle, Twitter and Verizon. Facebook, for example, is the largest seller of display ads and Amazon last month surpassed us as the preferred ad buying platform for advertisers. We compete fiercely with those companies and others such as Mediaocean, Amobee, MediaMath, Centro, Magnite, The Trade Desk, Index Exchange, OpenX, PubMatic and countless more. A growing number of retail brands such as Walmart, Walgreens, Best Buy, Kroger and Target are also offering their own ad tech.

Myth: Google “extracts a very high ... percent of the ad dollars otherwise flowing to online publishers.”
Fact: Our fees are actually lower than reported industry averages.

Our ad tech fees are lower than reported industry averages. Publishers keep about 70 percent of the revenue when using our products, and for some types of advertising, publishers keep even more—that’s more money in publishers’ pockets to fund their creation of high-quality content.

Myth: We created an alternative to header bidding that “secretly stacks the deck in Google’s favor.”
Fact: We created Open Bidding to address the drawbacks of header bidding.

Header bidding refers to running an auction among multiple ad exchanges for given ad space. You won’t read this in AG Paxton’s complaint, but the technology has real drawbacks: Header bidding auctions take place within the browser, on your computer or mobile phone, so they require the device to use more data in order to work. This can lead to problems like webpages taking longer to load and device batteries draining faster. And the multilayered complexity of header bidding can lead to fraud and other problems that can artificially increase prices for advertisers, as well as billing discrepancies that can hurt publisher revenue.

So we created an alternative to header bidding, called Open Bidding, which runs within the ad server instead of on your device. This solves many of the problems associated with header bidding. Open Bidding provides publishers access to demand from dozens of networks and exchanges. This helps increase demand for publisher inventory and competition for ad space, which enables publishers to drive more revenue. In fact, our data shows that publishers who decide to use Open Bidding on Ad Manager typically see double-digit revenue increases across our partners and exchange—and they can measure this for themselves. 

Additionally, our publisher platform has always integrated with header bidding, so publishers have the choice to use their preferred bidding solution. Publishers can and do bring bids from non-Google header bidding tools into our platform.

Since we launched Open Bidding, traditional header bidding has continued to grow. In fact, a recent survey shows about 90 percent of publishers currently use header bidding for desktop and 60 percent use header bidding for mobile in-app or in-stream video. Amazon also launched an entirely new competitive header bidding solution, which uses the same server-side approach that we do. Header bidding is an evolving and growing space—and now, as a result of our work, there are alternatives to header bidding that improve the user experience.

Myth: Our Open Bidding agreement with Facebook harms publishers.
Fact: Facebook is one of over 25 partners in Open Bidding, and their participation actually helps publishers.

AG Paxton also makes misleading claims about Facebook’s participation in our Open Bidding program.  Facebook Audience Network (FAN)’s involvement isn’t a secret. In fact, it was well-publicized and FAN is one of over 25 partners participating in Open Bidding. Our agreement with FAN simply enables them (and the advertisers they represent) to participate in Open Bidding. Of course we want FAN to participate because the whole goal of Open Bidding is to work with a range of ad networks and exchanges to increase demand for publishers’ ad space, which helps those publishers earn more revenue. FAN’s participation helps that. But to be clear, Open Bidding is still an extremely small part of our ad tech business, accounting for less than 4 percent of the display ads we place.

AG Paxton inaccurately claims that we manipulate the Open Bidding auction in FAN’s favor. We absolutely don’t. FAN must make the highest bid to win a given impression. If another eligible network or exchange bids higher, they win the auction. FAN’s participation in Open Bidding doesn't prevent Facebook from participating in header bidding or any other similar system. In fact, FAN participates in several similar auctions on rival platforms.

And AG Paxton’s claims about how much we charge other Open Bidding partners are mistaken—our standard revenue share for Open Bidding is 5-10 percent.

Myth: AMP was designed to hurt header bidding.
Fact: AMP was designed in partnership with publishers to improve the mobile web.

AG Paxton’s claims about AMP and header bidding are just false. Engineers at Google designed AMP in partnership with publishers and other tech companies to help webpages load faster and improve the user experience on mobile devices—not to harm header bidding.

AMP supports a range of monetization options, including header bidding. Publishers are free to use both AMP and header bidding technologies together if they choose. The use of header bidding doesn’t factor into publisher search rankings. 

Myth: We force partners to use Google tools.
Fact: Partners can readily use our tools and other technologies side by side. 

This claim isn’t accurate either. Publishers and advertisers often use multiple technologies simultaneously. In fact, surveys show the average large publisher uses six different platforms to sell ads on its site, and plans to use even more this year. And the top 100 advertisers use an average of four or more platforms to buy ads.

All of this is why we build our technologies to be interoperable with more than 700 rival platforms for advertisers and 80 rival platforms for publishers.

AG Paxton’s complaint talks about the idea that we offer tools for both advertisers and publishers as if that’s unusual or problematic. But that reflects a lack of knowledge of the online ads industry, where serving both advertisers and publishers is actually commonplace. Many firms with competing ad tech businesses, such as AT&T, Amazon, Twitter, Verizon, Comcast and others, offer ad platforms and tools like ours that cater to both advertisers and publishers. We don’t require either advertisers or publishers to use our whole “stack,” and many don’t. Ultimately, advertisers and publishers can choose what works best for their needs.

Myth: “Google uses privacy concerns to advantage itself.”
Fact: Consumers expect us to secure their data—and we do.

AG Paxton misrepresents our privacy initiatives. We're committed to operating our advertising business in a way that gives people transparency into and control over how their data is used. Consumers also increasingly expect, and data privacy laws require, strict controls over ad tracking tools like cookies and ad identifiers. So we’re focused on meeting those expectations and requirements. As we do so, we’ve created privacy-protecting solutions that enable other ad tech companies to continue to operate and introduced an open and collaborative industry initiative called the Privacy Sandbox, which is working on alternatives to cookies that preserve privacy while protecting free content. Other web browsers have likewise taken similar steps to limit the use of cookies and protect user privacy.

More information

There are many other things this complaint simply gets wrong. You can read more about our ad tech business by visiting our competition website.

We look forward to defending ourselves in court. In the meantime, we’ll continue our work to help publishers and advertisers grow with digital ads and create a sustainable advertising industry that supports free content for everyone.

Our continuing support for Dreamers

For generations, talented immigrants have helped America drive technological breakthroughs and scientific advancements that have created millions of new jobs in new industries, enriching our culture and our economy.

That’s why we have long supported the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This was established in 2012 and allows “Dreamers” who came to the United States as children to request deferred action and work authorization for a renewal period of two years. Google proudly employs Dreamers who work to build the products you use every day. And we’ve defended their right to stay in the United States by joining amici briefs in court supporting DACA.

Unfortunately, DACA’s immediate future is uncertain. At the end of 2020, a U.S. District Court indicated that it could soon issue a ruling against DACA and bar new applications and ultimately renewals as well, leaving countless Dreamers in limbo during this uncertain time.

We believe it’s important that Dreamers have a chance to apply for protection under the program so that they can safeguard their status in the United States. But in the middle of a global pandemic that has led to economic hardship, especially for the many immigrants playing essential roles on the front lines, there is concern that many Dreamers cannot afford to pay the application fee

We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers. This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).

We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms. We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.

Dreamers and other talented immigrants enrich our communities, contribute to our economy, and exemplify the innovative spirit of America. We’re proud to support them.

Redesigning Search would harm American consumers and businesses

Our response to today’s lawsuit about the design of Google Search by state attorneys general:

Google Search is designed to provide you with the most relevant results. We know that if you don’t like the results we’re giving you, you have numerous alternatives—including Amazon, Expedia, Tripadvisor and many others just a click away.

So we keep working to improve our results, designing and rolling out helpful features in Search—including maps, links to products and services you can buy directly, flight and hotel options, and local business information like hours of operation and delivery services.

Look at how our search results have evolved and improved over the years. This is what our search results looked like in 2000—10 blue links, but no other useful features:

Search results page for bread in 2000 showing 10 blue links

And this is what they look like today—more useful information, more direct connections to businesses, more links to websites. Our rigorous testing tells us that you far prefer these types of rich results.

GIF showing a search result for bread on Google in 2020 with rich results

Other search engines like Microsoft’s Bing seem to have heard the same feedback because they have also evolved to provide these kinds of direct results.

Search for Bread on Microsoft Bing in 2020

To get more specifically to the issues raised in today’s lawsuit: it suggests we shouldn't have worked to make Search better and that we should, in fact, be less useful to you. When you search for local products and services, we show information that helps you connect with businesses directly and helps them reach more customers. This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses.   

Redesigning Google Search this way would harm the quality of your search results. And it would come at the expense of businesses like retailers, restaurants, repair shops, airlines and hotels whose listings in Google help them get discovered, and connect directly with customers. They would have a harder time reaching new customers and competing against big commerce and travel platforms and other aggregators and middlemen. 

The data shows that our local results in Search drive more than 4 billion direct connections for businesses every month (such as visits to businesses’ websites, people calling merchants, getting directions to stores, ordering food from restaurants). 

Even as we have added content and features to our search results, the volume of traffic we send to non-Google sites has increased every year since Search was created. Our search results page, which used to show 10 links, now shows an average of 26 outgoing links on mobile devices. 

We drive billions of visits to sites across the web every day and the volume of traffic we’ve sent to non-Google sites has increased every day since Search was created. On average, local results in Google Search drive more than 4 billion connections for businesses every month. This includes more than 2 billion monthly website clicks, as well as other connections like phone calls, directions, ordering food and making reservations. Each month Google connects people with more than 120 million businesses that don’t have websites.

The claims being made have been closely examined and rejected by regulators and courts around the world, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, competition authorities in Brazil, Canada and Taiwan, and courts in the United Kingdom and Germany, who all agreed that our changes are designed to improve your search results. It’s also well established that the most important driver for our search results is the specific query—not your personal data.

A gif showing quotes from regulators: “[Google’s changes to Search] could be seen as providing convenience to users and in line with users’ benefits.” - The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission “Google innovated in order to improve the quality and the experience of Internet searches of users, which is considered pro-competitive conduct.” - The Brazilian Competition Authority (CADE) “[I]t is indisputable that the display of a thumbnail map on the [search engine results page (SERP)] in response to a geographic query indeed enhances the quality of the Google SERP.” - The England and Wales High Court (Chancery Division) In a 5-0 bipartisan decision, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said our product changes were designed to “improve the quality” of search results and “likely benefited consumers.”  “Google’s changes [in Search] are generally made to improve user experiences.” - Competition Bureau Canada

We know that scrutiny of big companies is important and we’re prepared to answer questions and work through the issues. But this lawsuit seeks to redesign Search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers. We look forward to making that case in court, while remaining focused on delivering a high-quality search experience for our users. 

The lawsuit also contains allegations that have previously been made about how we distribute Search, and about our advertising technologies. On those topics, you can read our blog post, and see more specifics on our competition site.

A more private web can help businesses grow

Ads play a major role in sustaining the free and open web. They support great content and services from a diverse range of creators and publishers. They help companies of all sizes reach customers more efficiently than ever before. 

Yet people’s expectations for the collection and use of data are changing, which means the web as we know it—free, open and ad-supported—is changing, too. Internet platforms, web browsers and ad-blocking features are promising more privacy by blocking common technologies like cookies. This takes a toll on the funds that content creators, newsrooms, web developers and videographers depend on to support their work. It also means that companies that rely on these technologies must respect the demand for a more private web in order for the web itself to remain dynamic and vibrant over the long term. 

We strongly believe that advertising and privacy can coexist. Helping businesses adapt to a privacy-safe web isn’t just good business practice—if done right, and done collaboratively, it can be an engine for economic recovery and growth.


The importance of online advertising 

When you see ads online, they’re usually placed with the support of widely available tools, often called ad technology or “ad tech,” that help companies get the most out of the money they spend on ads. Google competes with a range of companies large and small to provide these tools to the platforms, publishers, and advertisers that need them. 

All this competition drives us to innovate and improve our tools. Millions of publishers use Google advertising services to help make the digital advertising process easy and effective, and publishers retain about 70 percent of the revenue that’s generated (and for many, it’s even more). We’re constantly working to help them earn more: In 2019, we made nearly 80 product improvements aimed at improving publisher revenue, which generated revenue increases of more than 9 percent in total for publishers using Google Ad Manager.


What cookies do 

Much of online advertising makes use of a basic, widely available technology called cookies, which are part of the basic architecture of the web. They help with things like measuring the effectiveness of a company’s ad campaign or enabling a particular advertiser to reach the consumers it wants to reach.

However, cookies were conceived for an earlier era. It’s clear from privacy laws in Europe and around the world that citizens and governments want a greater understanding of how they work and more control over their use. And efforts by platforms, browsers and ad-blocking companies are already putting new limits on them.

In this changing landscape, the funds that web publishers rely on to support their operations are increasingly at risk. For example, an analysis of the 500 largest Google Ad Manager customers found that when third-party cookies are disabled, publishers receive on average 52 percent less programmatic ad revenue. Like others, Google also uses third-party cookies for ads we serve on other sites (for example, Google Ad Manager and AdSense) so Google will also be affected as the industry moves away from cookies.


The Privacy Sandbox 

The question today is whether the web can keep people’s information safe and private while also supporting the advertising that keeps so much of the web free. 

That’s why, as part of a larger initiative with the web standards community called the “Privacy Sandbox,” the engineers behind Google’s browser, Chrome, are working on ways to underpin a healthy, ad-supported web without third-party cookies. Privacy Sandbox aims to provide space for experimentation and input from technologists, businesses, publishers, regulators and more. Among the proposals being tested are privacy-safe ways to do things like predict and protect against fraud, properly measure if an ad campaign has “worked,” and find the right audience for an ad. One such proposal, Federated Learning of Cohorts, uses machine learning algorithms that run on individual devices to model groups of people by their browsing behaviors without creating individual ad profiles at all.

Coming up with these new technologies involves complicated trade-offs, but we believe that the decision to phase out support for third-party cookies is the right thing for privacy and the industry as a whole. That’s why we’re working with the industry in forums like the W3C, and are in active discussions with independent authorities, such as the Competition and Markets Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, to help us find the best approach. 


Responsible use of data

We’re committed to having privacy-preserving mechanisms in place that address the industry’s critical needs before discontinuing support for third-party cookies. We think this will not only promote business growth for numerous companies, but could also increase competition in the sector overall by making it a healthier place to advertise and grow while still meeting consumers’ expectations.

Alongside our efforts to promote privacy, we’re increasing transparency on the data we use, and are investing in products to help people and businesses to understand, protect, move and benefit from data in new ways

Protecting people's personal data doesn’t have to be at odds with business growth. By focusing on the people who use our products and investing in new technologies to connect advertisers and publishers with users safely, we can create more value and promote a thriving future on the web—for everyone.

The opportunity for “Digital Sprinters”

People around the world are confronting once-in-a-generation challenges: a global pandemic, an economic downturn of unprecedented proportions, rising demands for equity, and dramatic strains on financial resources.

The rain from this perfect storm is falling hardest on emerging markets. In many cases, they’re struggling to manage the pandemic with fewer public health resources and also suffer from greater economic vulnerabilities. Yet emerging markets also have some of the most vibrant economies and greatest entrepreneurial energy in the world. With the right policy frameworks, they can become ideal launching pads for future innovation. This challenging moment may be exactly the right time for these economies to pursue ambitious digital transformation, using their immediate recovery efforts to develop sustainable economic gains.

Nearly a third of U.S. small business owners are using digital tools to save their business during the COVID-19 crisis. In emerging markets too, digital technologies are often providing a lifeline: a plus-size clothes designer in Manaus, Brazil, a musical instruments maker in Istanbul, Turkey and an owner of a guest house in Durban, South Africa have all been able to survive by using digital technologies and online commerce.



Becoming “Digital Sprinters”
We call these emerging economies “Digital Sprinters” because, by becoming more digital, they have the potential to sprint ahead toward economic development. Based on our experiences, we believe governments and the private sector should focus on four key areas, as detailed in a report we're releasing today:



  • Physical capital: this is about digital connectivity and infrastructure. It’s not just about investment but also how infrastructure is managed.
  • Human capital: countries need a comprehensive approach to worker training, economic security, entrepreneurship, and combating discrimination.
  • Technology: increasing the use of data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, which empower the growth of next-generation technologies and unlock future growth. This means new opportunities alongside new questions about how best to harness these technologies.
  • Competitiveness: policies that promote competitive and open markets, interoperable regulatory standards, and tax regimes that are predictable and based on international standards.

Our recommendations reflect just one perspective on public policy frameworks for digital transformation. We hope that the report will help advance conversations about digitally-driven growth among governments, civil society, international organizations, academic institutions and entrepreneurs.

Potential economic gains
The economic potential from digital transformation is huge. A new study finds that, by 2030, digital transformation could generate as much $3.4 trillion of economic value in these Digital Sprinter markets. At a country level this translates to 25 percent of GDP in Brazil, 31 percent in Saudi Arabia and 33 percent in Nigeria, to name a few examples.


Emerging markets face a watershed moment today. As COVID-19 is disrupting world order and breaking supply chains, emerging markets have an opportunity to transform and emerge as stronger players. We hope these reports published today can play a part in helping decision-makers take advantage of these opportunities.



Posted by Kent Walker, Senior Vice President of Global Affairs.

==== 


The opportunity for “Digital Sprinters”

People around the world are confronting once-in-a-generation challenges: a global pandemic, an economic downturn of unprecedented proportions, rising demands for equity, and dramatic strains on financial resources. 

The rain from this perfect storm is falling hardest on emerging markets. In many cases, they’re struggling to manage the pandemic with fewer public health resources and also suffer from greater economic vulnerabilities. Yet emerging markets also have some of the most vibrant economies and greatest entrepreneurial energy in the world. With the right policy frameworks, they can become ideal launching pads for future innovation. This challenging moment may be exactly the right time for these economies to pursue ambitious digital transformation, using their immediate recovery efforts to develop sustainable economic gains. 

Nearly a third of U.S. small business owners are using digital tools to save their business during the COVID-19 crisis. In emerging markets too, digital technologies are often providing a lifeline: a plus-size clothes designer in Manaus, Brazil, a musical instruments maker in Istanbul, Turkey and an owner of a guest house in Durban, South Africa have all been able to survive by using digital technologies and online commerce.

Becoming “Digital Sprinters”

We call these emerging economies “Digital Sprinters” because, by becoming more digital, they have the potential to sprint ahead toward economic development. Based on our experiences, we believe governments and the private sector should focus on four key areas, as detailed in a report we're releasing today:

Four key areas to focus on regarding "Digital Sprinters"
  • Physical capital: this is about digital connectivity and infrastructure. It’s not just about investment but also how infrastructure is managed.
  • Human capital: countries need a comprehensive approach to worker training, economic security, entrepreneurship, and combating discrimination.
  • Technology: increasing the use of data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, which empower the growth of next-generation technologies and unlock future growth. This means new opportunities alongside new questions about how best to harness these technologies.
  • Competitiveness:policies that promote competitive and open markets, interoperable regulatory standards, and tax regimes that are predictable and based on international standards.

Our recommendations reflect just one perspective on public policy frameworks for digital transformation. We hope that the report will help advance conversations about digitally-driven growth among governments, civil society, international organizations, academic institutions and entrepreneurs.

Potential economic gains

The economic potential from digital transformation is huge. A new study finds that, by 2030, digital transformation could generate as much $3.4 trillion of economic value in these Digital Sprinter markets. At a country level this translates to 25 percent of GDP in Brazil, 31 percent in Saudi Arabia and 33 percent in Nigeria, to name a few examples.


Emerging markets face a watershed moment today. As COVID-19 is disrupting world order and breaking supply chains, emerging markets have an opportunity to transform and emerge as stronger players. We hope these reports published today can play a part in helping decision-makers take advantage of these opportunities.

Sundar Pichai’s testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee

Editor’s Note: Today the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter are testifying before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. Read our CEO Sundar Pichai’s opening testimony below, describing how Section 230 makes it possible for Google to provide access to a wide range of information—including high-quality local journalism—while responsibly protecting people from harm and keeping their information private.


Chairman Wicker, Ranking Member Cantwell, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

The internet has been a powerful force for good over the past three decades. It has radically improved access to information, whether it’s connecting Americans to jobs, getting critical updates to people in times of crisis, or helping a parent find answers to questions like “How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?”

At the same time, people everywhere can use their voices to share new perspectives, express themselves and reach broader audiences than ever before. Whether you’re a barber in Mississippi or a home renovator in Indiana, you can share a video and build a global fanbase—and a successful business—right from your living room.

In this way, the internet has been one of the world’s most important equalizers. Information can be shared—and knowledge can flow—from anyone, to anywhere. But the same low barriers to entry also make it possible for bad actors to cause harm.

As a company whose mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, Google is deeply conscious of both the opportunities and risks the internet creates. 

I’m proud that Google’s information services like Search, Gmail, Maps, and Photos provide thousands of dollars a year in value to the average American—for free. We feel a deep responsibility to keep the people who use our products safe and secure, and have long invested in innovative tools to prevent abuse of our services. 

When it comes to privacy we are committed to keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control. We continue to make privacy improvements —like the changes I announced earlier this year to keep less data by default—and support the creation of comprehensive federal privacy laws.

We are equally committed to protecting the quality and integrity of information on our platforms, and supporting our democracy in a non-partisan way.

As just one timely example, our information panels on Google and YouTube inform users about where to vote and how to register. We’ve also taken many steps to raise up high-quality journalism, from sending 24 billion visits to news websites globally every month, to our recent $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers.

Since our founding, we have been deeply committed to the freedom of expression. We also feel a responsibility to protect people who use our products from harmful content and to be transparent about how we do that. That’s why we set and publicly disclose clear guidelines for our products and platforms, which we enforce impartially. 

We recognize that people come to our services with a broad spectrum of perspectives, and we are dedicated to building products that are helpful to users of all backgrounds and viewpoints.

Let me be clear: We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe.

Of course, our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks, like Section 230. The United States adopted Section 230 early in the internet’s history, and it has been foundational to U.S. leadership in the tech sector. It protects the freedom to create and share content while supporting the ability of platforms and services of all sizes to responsibly address harmful content.   

We appreciate that this Committee has put great thought into how platforms should address content, and we look forward to having these conversations. 

As you think about how to shape policy in this important area, I would urge the Committee to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and customers.

At the end of the day, we all share the same goal: free access to information for everyone and responsible protections for people and their data. We support legal frameworks that achieve these goals, and I look forward to engaging with you today about these important issues, and answering your questions.

The Digital Services Act must not harm Europe’s economic recovery

In this extraordinary year, people and businesses are asking more, not less, from technology and technology companies. For many of us, and for many businesses, digital tools have been a lifeline during lockdown, helping us work, shop, find customers, connect with loved ones and get the latest public health information.


Helpful digital tools that serve millions of people don’t happen by accident—they need investment and rules that encourage that investment and innovation.  Twenty years ago, the European Union created a regulatory environment to do just that. Now it's overhauling those rules, with a comprehensive reform called the Digital Services Act (DSA).  We fully support updating the rules, and think it’s more important than ever that this regulation delivers for European consumers and businesses. 


But a significant part of this reform will impact how digital tools can be built in the future, and by whom. That’s why, earlier this year, we shared our ideas with the European Commission, suggesting ways that existing legislation could be improved and warning of the risks if new rules are poorly designed.


Through the pandemic, people’s use of technology has jumped forward five years, with a 60 percent increase in internet usage. Searches for online shopping and how-to-buy online grew by 200 percent worldwide. Demand for the free digital skills courses that Google offers has increased by 300 percent. And many businesses—like restaurants, fashion designers, retailers and even hairdressers—have embraced digital to survive during painful lockdowns and restrictions. 


Now, just as in every economic downturn of the last 20 years, digital tools will be a vital catalyst for the economic recovery that must come after COVID-19. In rewriting the rules that govern the internet in Europe, the EU has an opportunity to rebuild the foundations so that everybody can thrive online and consumers can benefit from wide choice and lower prices. 


Yet reports suggest that some of the proposals being considered would do the opposite.  They would prevent global technology companies like Google from building innovative digital tools like the ones that people have used through lockdown—and that will help European businesses rebuild their operations. That would be a missed opportunity for Europe as it looks to the post-Covid future.


The DSA will not only affect a handful of global companies, but will also have broader impacts - including on the livelihoods of small business owners across Europe, who use digital services like ours to communicate with their customers, sell their products and services and fuel their growth. 


To take just one example, if you use Google Search to look for  “Thai food nearby,” —Google Maps shows you where the nearest restaurant is located and provides its contact details. And other links let you book a table directly (if local health restrictions allow) or see if you can pick up your meal to take away. 


The DSA could prevent Google from developing such user-centric features. That would clearly have an impact not just on how people use our services, but also on the thousands of restaurants which welcomed millions of diners in Europe using this free feature this year. 


At Google, we put innovation and continuous improvement at the heart of everything we do.  While we support the ambition of the DSA to create clear rules for the next 20 years that support economic growth, we worry that the new rules may instead slow economic recovery. We will advocate strongly for policies that will help ensure innovation and digital tools are at the heart of Europe's recovery and future success.  


Over the past few months, we’ve seen the power of technology as a tool to bring people together, keep them safe and help them get through difficult times. Now, more than ever, we need to focus not on how to limit innovation by a few companies, but on how the full range of digital tools available can contribute to Europe’s recovery and future economic success. The key to that success? Giving people more, not less. 


A united front against online piracy in Asia Pacific

With more people staying at home, video streaming is up everywhere—and by as much as 60 percent in Southeast Asia, according to a Media Partners Asia study. That makes it all the more critical that we and our partners in the region continue to address the serious challenge of online piracy.   


Google’s overall approach is set out in our Anti-Piracy Principles, and we work closely with media and entertainment industry organizations to tackle new challenges. Two years ago, we started talking to the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), the trade group for the video ecosystem in Asia, about how we could collaborate. Since then, we’ve been having quarterly forums with their members: broadcasters, operators and telcos. We also make sure AVIA members are aware of new features like What to Watch, to ensure their legitimate content is visible and prominent on the Search results page.


To learn more about online piracy in Asia Pacific (APAC), we spoke to Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA. 


How does the APAC region differ from others when it comes to broadcast, media and  entertainment?

There are very divergent tastes in content across APAC, which is not surprising given the different cultures and languages. The genres that work best across multiple markets would be a mix of Western, Korean and Chinese content. These genres are widely available, but fragmented over many services, some not mature, and business models vary. In parts of the region, people have never developed a habit of paying for content, so platforms often feel they have to adapt their business models to compete with piracy in a far more pronounced way than in the West. In terms of consumption, many markets are mobile-first.


What role should education play in efforts to fight piracy? Do consumers in the region know how to access legitimate alternatives and why they should choose these options?

Consumer awareness is important to any anti-piracy strategy. Consumers need to know the very real risks they face from malware when accessing piracy sites or using illicit applications. Most people know that what they are accessing is stolen content: in a recent YouGov survey, commissioned by AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), when asked who was most responsible for preventing piracy, Singaporeans chose “the individual, for choosing not to watch pirated content.” There are many legal and reliable video streaming services available in Southeast Asia. Websites that are dedicated to infringement are unreliable, put people at risk of malware infection, and fund crime groups. 


Over the last few years, Google has been a partner of AVIA—working to fight piracy in the region. Why are these types of partnerships worthwhile?

Piracy is an industry-wide problem, and industry needs to come together to fight it. AVIA represents many of the biggest IP owners in the region and Google has the most popular search engine and online video platform, so a couple of years ago we both agreed that it made sense for us to sit down and have a frank and open conversation about the problems of piracy, understand the tools and measures Google is putting in place, and provide a forum for our members to raise concerns that Google may be able to address.


It has been a constructive and collaborative process which has been appreciated on both sides. And it has led to new initiatives, including a workshop AVIA arranged for many of its Asia-based IP creators across India, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia—designed to make better use of Google’s tools for removing infringing content. It’s a positive step that content producers, distributors and industry associations are now working together to address the problems, as well as partnering with technology platforms, payment processors, e-market platforms and other intermediaries.

Partnership, policy and trade in Asia’s economic recovery

Today, at the Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia Development Symposium, leaders from government and the technology industry will discuss how to work together to bring about a strong recovery from COVID-19. 


This is a vital conversation. Advances in policy and technology have always led to progress and opportunity. But in Asia Pacific today, with another 663 million people poised to come online by 2025—and the virus only increasing the importance of digital knowledge and tools— it’s more important than ever that policymakers and technology-makers work towards common goals. It’s how we ensure the benefits of technology are shared as widely and equitably as possible.


Shared responsibility


Throughout the region, the pandemic has given rise to new public-private initiatives to protect people’s health and livelihoods, and to help businesses and workers get through. Google is involved in many of them. Together with our government partners, we’re focused on helping people reskill and find jobs, closing digital divides, and providing helpful platforms. We’re supporting the growth of digital economies by investing in network and cloud infrastructure, and striving to make progress on challenges like combating misinformation, developing digital literacy and protecting privacy.


We need to continue this spirit of shared responsibility, not just during the recovery from COVID, but to lay the ground for the long term. Jobs initiatives like Skills Ignition in Singapore show how government-industry collaboration can be a model for a more inclusive type of recovery. At the same time, there’s scope for partnership on a much broader range of challenges where technology can make a difference, from disaster readiness to disease prevention. In many of these areas, the work being done in Asia Pacific is world-leading. 


Global leadership on digital trade


When it comes to government policy, the Asia Pacific region has another opportunity to lead the way globally. The region has been central to global trade for centuries—the next step is to translate this for the digital era. 


Two recent digital trade agreements—between Singapore and Australia, and between Singapore, New Zealand and Chile—show Asia Pacific governments setting global rules for digital trade. They’re a template for how countries can share and protect data, foster new ideas, grow digital industries and—most importantly—harness technology to create jobs and improve living standards. 


We will need more such agreements in the wake of the coronavirus. Fair and open access to digital platforms and tools is critical for small businesses and startups, enabling them to compete in international markets, and boosting economic growth across borders. In Southeast Asia, to use one example, Bain estimates that digital integration could add $1 trillion to regional GDP by 2025. 


Equally important is the message that digital trade agreements send. The right approach to economic recovery is cooperation, not protectionism, including preserving and strengthening the open, global internet as a foundation for commerce and entrepreneurship. We recognize Google’s responsibility in this, and we want to work with governments, businesses, and international organizations like the Asian Development Bank to ensure the digital infrastructure is in place for talent and trade to thrive in the decade ahead. 


Over 30 years in diplomacy and business, I’ve seen the power of effective partnership and far-sighted policy in this region’s incredible progress. All of us at Google are looking forward to helping build on that progress in the post-COVID world.