Google uses July 4 to doodle and get political

In a curious mixture of patriotism and political activism, Google's U.S. home page enjoys a modest doodle and link to a campaign for Internet freedom.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I worry that Google's doodlers have been given a little time off, just at the time when something supremely animated was needed to lift America's dreariness on July 4.

Today, instead of some glorious and uplifting doodle, Google offers a very simple affair, the logo spelling out the words: "This Land Was Made For You And Me."

The only unusual accompaniment is that of an acoustic guitar, a homage to Woody Guthrie, whose "This Land Is My Land" includes the doodle's line.

Guthrie was very keen to offer of his guitar that "This Machine Kills Fascists." However, Google has taken the opportunity to attack not merely fascists, but a few communists (and even apparently democratic types) around the world who wish to tamper with the Internet.

For below the doodle is a link to the company's "Take Action" page, which is adorned with a video campaigning for Web freedom.

This is, naturally, the height of political correctness. It features quotes from the president, as well as presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. There's even room for Lucy Adams, 17, though time runs out before we hear a Latino or Asian voice.

Surely no one can dispute that a genuinely free Internet is a very fine thing -- even if, at times, it seems like an unrealistic hope in such a turmoil-ridden world.

Those of a raw and critical bent, though, might wonder whether Google is the right company to be at the forefront of the battle.

It isn't merely, they might say, that the company has been caught once or twice performing acts that seemed marginally less than free -- for example, in its legendary escapade to capture Wi-Fi information as its Street View cars were out and about.

It's that when a corporation campaigns for freedom, there is naturally a suspicion of self-interest.

As Google has often declared, it wants as much information as possible to be open. It just so happens that if it is, Google's machines can scrape it for its own business purposes.

It has, for example, accused Facebook of holding its users hostage .

That phrase, uttered by CEO Larry Page, seems particularly unfortunate coming from a company that itself has been accused of spying and fined for impeding federal investigations.

The fight for freedom -- some freedom, any freedom -- never ends.

As Susan Molinari, Google's vice president of public policy and government affairs for the Americas says on the company's blog: "We've only just begun to see what a free and open Internet can do for people and for the freedom we cherish."

There is still, perhaps, something slightly peculiar about a powerful global advertising company -- one that asks you to trust it as its machines read your personal e-mail -- setting itself up as a standard-bearer.

 

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