Google Is Like Pornography

Stephen Yagielowicz

While the comment is attributed to Wendy Schmidt, the wife of former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, it puts forth her husband’s belief: “Google is like pornography.”

Schmidt went on to explain the connection by saying that “People see the word Google and they don’t see anything else,” a sentiment that provides intriguing insights into the upper echelons of the search giant’s corporate culture.

The company’s desire to avoid promoting evil is a strong part of its heritage, but the boundaries of what constitutes “evil” are open to discussion.

On its face value, the correlation is dead-on: despite the company’s diversity, many consumers still exclusively equate Google with Internet search; just as many folks that are exposed to the diverse world of adult entertainment, “see” only its basest elements; never experiencing the breadth of benefits that either a technology company, or adult entertainment, has to offer.

In Google’s case, this pigeonholing of perception may serve to strengthen its core business, but at the cost of brand awareness of other initiatives. In the case of porn, its legitimate purveyors are tainted by criminal operators, using porn as a vehicle for fraud and child abuse. In both cases, understanding attitudes and the preconceived notions that drive them, opens the door for a more informed and marketable audience.

Extending this line of thought, adult operators could view Google management as the audience that needs reaching, in an effort to offer informed guidance and Best Practices.

For further insights into Google’s view of adult entertainment, we can turn to other quotes that are directly attributed to Eric Schmidt.

For example, “There is what I call the creepy line,” Schmidt stated, explaining that “The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

“Creepy,” like “evil,” is a subjective term when dealing with the desires of a global audience, however; but “evil” is nonetheless a guiding part of Google’s corporate culture.

“‘Don’t be evil’ is misunderstood,” Schmidt stated. “We don’t have an ‘Evilmeter’ we can sort of apply — you know — what is good and what is evil. The rule allows for conversation.”

The company’s desire to avoid promoting evil is a strong part of its heritage, but the boundaries of what constitutes “evil” are open to discussion.

“I thought when I joined the company this was crap… it must be a joke. I was sitting in a room in [the] first six months ... talking about some advertising… and someone said that it is evil. It stopped the product,” Schmidt expounded. “It’s a cultural rule, a way of forcing the conversation especially in areas that are ambiguous.”

As for any final arbitrator of right and wrong, Schmidt reportedly stated that “Evil is what [Google co-founder Sergey Brin] says is evil,” illustrating how personal preferences — rather than the letter of the law — often determine the extent to which adult content is distributed and marketed.

The upshot to all of this is that while Google obviously understands the complex and negative consequences of having a public perception painted with a wide brush, this may be as far as its affinity extends to the adult entertainment industry; but by presenting an approach that is more restrained and less “evil,” the adult business may face easier going when trying to gain its share of the search leader’s traffic bounty.