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Daily Mail on Google and Adele

Today, the Daily Mail published the most hysterical pile of anti-internet crap that I think I’ve ever seen. And that takes some doing as Daily Mail articles usually combine a complete lack of understanding of the internet together with the deep distrust and fear that Mail writers have for most of the modern world.

In this article, writer Alex Brummer turns his attention to Google and the damage that they are doing to the UK’s digital industry. It’s the usual concoction of nonsense and half-truths and it contains a typical Mail conspiracy theory claiming that David Cameron is promoting Google as a good example of a digital success story because his strategy advisor Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google’s head of communications. It doesn’t seem to occur to Brummer at all that Cameron is promoting Google as a good example of a digital success story because… well because it’s a bloody good example of a digital success story.

The article then goes seriously off the rails as Brummer explains how Google’s business plan is plunder the copyright of hard-working British artists like Adele and to share their work with everyone for free. It reaches a peak of insanity as he says this:

One only has to switch on the computer, call up the Google search engine and type in the name of a star like Adele to understand why the digital channel is such a threat to the UK’s performers, and for that matter our whole creative industry.

Nine out of the first ten websites which pop up on Google’s search engine are run by pirates who have downloaded Adele’s output and offer it online far more cheaply than official copyrighted sites and High Street retailers.

Claims like this aren’t new, of course and presumably Brummer assumes that everyone who reads those paragraphs will nod in agreement whilst thinking to themselves, “Of course that’s what happens – wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turns up a few pages of porn too”. Brummer relies on his readership being people who have be told so many horror stories about Google search results that they are now scared to even visit the site.

So what happens if you actually bother to try Brummer’s suggestion. Here’s what I got:

  • Three links to videos on YouTube. Two of them are from her record label and the other one seems to be from Adele’s own channel.
  • Two links to Adele’s official web site.
  • Three links to news stories about Adele (including Brummer’s own story).
  • A link to Adele’s MySpace page.
  • Five images.
  • A link to a page about Adele on last.fm.
  • A link to a page of Adele lyrics (this doesn’t look official).
  • A link to Adele’s Facebook page.
  • A link to an Amazon page promoting Adele.
  • A link to Adele’s record company’s page about her.

All of which rather seems to disprove Brummer’s theory. From this sample it seems that Google seems very adept at putting Adele’s fans in touch with official sources of information about her. Only the lyrics page seems unofficial or unapproved – and do lyrics really count as piracy?

There’s another option to consider here though. For a couple of years now Google have been providing customised search results. Whenever you search on Google, they take into account the links that you have clicked on from previous search results. I’m not surprised that I get a page of official links as those are the kinds of sites that I usually show most interest in. If Mr Brummer gets a page of pirate links then perhaps he should investigate who has been using his computer.