Is Google Docs the Latest Front in Google Censorship?

 

People are getting locked out of innocuous Google Docs for supposedly violating the terms of service. From The Verge:

Google Docs users are reporting various bugs today that result in them getting locked out of their documents. Most of the issues center on a mysterious Terms of Service violation.

The reports largely come from journalists. It’s unclear whether the error is targeting media companies and reporters, or if it’s just coincidence because reporters tend to spend a lot of time in the app (and on Twitter). Nevertheless, this bug is concerning, considering it implies that Google is scanning documents for content and something is misfiring on the company’s end.

We reached out to Google for clarification and received this statement back: “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Docs. We will provide more information when appropriate.”

Supposedly it’s just a glitch for now. But it reveals that Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

How long before they start censoring your work files for “inappropriate” content?

What about the files you have saved in Google Drive? Woe be to any conservative political organization that uses Google Drive or Google Docs for their work. They might as well email all of their proprietary info directly to the DNC.

Published in Technology
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 60 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Misthiocracy: Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

    Only a wee bit? ;)

    I’ve been gradually disconnecting from Google for the last couple of years. It maybe time to pick up the pace.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy: Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

    Only a wee bit? ;)

    I’ve been gradually disconnecting from Google for the last couple of years. It maybe time to pick up the pace.

    Yup.  I have NextCloud running on my own home server, but I haven’t used it very much because my Internet connection has very slow upload speeds.

     

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Google Drive is not secure (for reasons in addition to those Nosy Parker’s scanning stuff) and therefore isn’t used by anyone the least bit concerned with data security/integrity.

    Has anyone checked it for Hillary’s emails?

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Just when you think Google can’t act anymore insidious . . . I hope someone will follow up to see if it continues. Even if you no longer get locked out of your documents, I have no doubt that they will be looking at your content. I only use gmail, and I expect no privacy.

    • #4
  5. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Over the last week or so when I type in Drudge, it used to come up – no more. It goes to my provider’s search engine. If I type in Drudge Report, it brings up a menu and the top one says Drudge Report – Warning.  There is no issue on Internet Explorer or Bing.  My sister in MD has had the same issue. What’s this about?

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Over the last week or so when I type in Drudge, it used to come up – no more. It goes to my provider’s search engine. If I type in Drudge Report, it brings up a menu and the top one says Drudge Report – Warning. There is no issue on Internet Explorer or Bing. My sister in MD has had the same issue. What’s this about?

    I’ve had this happen lately with lots of websites that had nothing to do with politics.  Even if I type in the full URL it sometimes goes to the search engine.

    I’m wagering it’s either a bug in the latest Chromium update, or else it’s a lame attempt by Google to show you more ads.  Luckily, I use DuckDuckGo for my search engine so they’re getting no extra ad views from me.

    • #6
  7. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Remember when Google’s motto was “don’t be evil”?

    Ah, the good old days…

     

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    A big reason I have never relied on the cloud to store critical data. It is on my hard drive, backed up by flash drives.

    Seawriter

    • #8
  9. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I only use gmail, and I expect no privacy.

    May I suggest you try ProtonMail. Of course, if your correspondent is using Gmail, the Evil Empire will still be reading your mail. But it works with your friends who are not.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I only use gmail, and I expect no privacy.

    May I suggest you try ProtonMail. Of course, if your correspondent is using Gmail, the Evil Empire will still be reading your mail. But it works with your friends who are not.

    I don’t much care whether people read my emails. I don’t email anything particularly interesting or personal. I know they can use the information to create demographics, but there are so many place that happens already, we’re all vulnerable. Also, many of my friends use gmail. But thanks for the suggestion, dr.

    • #10
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    My GMail account is for all the stuff from every retailer I do business with. Google must love all the junk cycling through my account.

    ALL of my important documents are stored on removable media (I’m still using ZIP disks on a ZIP drive).  I keep very little except photos and programs on my hard drive, so it never gets remotely full.

    • #11
  12. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    Google is looking over your shoulder. I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you.

     

     

     

     

    • #12
  13. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I only use gmail, and I expect no privacy.

    May I suggest you try ProtonMail. Of course, if your correspondent is using Gmail, the Evil Empire will still be reading your mail. But it works with your friends who are not.

    I don’t much care whether people read my emails. I don’t email anything particularly interesting or personal.

    Yeah, me neither. But I still don’t trust them to not (a) start charging, (b) start censoring, or (c) arbitrarily terminate you because of political views. Look at how they treated James Damore.

    The social media companies (Twitter, Google, Facebook) enjoy near-monopoly status in their respective spaces. If (more accurately when) they move against you, it’s important to have already developed alternatives. Furthermore, you can contribute to undermining their monopoly by supporting the alternatives. Any conservative, actually anyone who does not toe the regressive left’s line, is vulnerable.

    • #13
  14. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy: Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

    Only a wee bit? ;)

    I’ve been gradually disconnecting from Google for the last couple of years. It maybe time to pick up the pace.

    Yup. I have NextCloud running on my own home server, but I haven’t used it very much because my Internet connection has very slow upload speeds.

    OK, upon your suggestion I downloaded NextCloud and hooked up with Ocloud.de.

    • #14
  15. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    The mark of the beast…or the beginning of it.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy: Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

    Only a wee bit? ;)

    I’ve been gradually disconnecting from Google for the last couple of years. It maybe time to pick up the pace.

    Yup. I have NextCloud running on my own home server, but I haven’t used it very much because my Internet connection has very slow upload speeds.

    OK, upon your suggestion I downloaded NextCloud and hooked up with Ocloud.de.

    Hmm, I’d never heard of Ocloud before.  Interesting.

    • #16
  17. Matt Upton Inactive
    Matt Upton
    @MattUpton

    I assume Google can/does see everything, and my only privacy barrier is internal policy motivated by market forces and business ethics. Only the hubris of a large technology company or a rogue employee could compromise that barrier.

    In other words, don’t store anything in G Drive you care not to be made public.

    • #17
  18. James Jones Member
    James Jones
    @JamesJones

    Google engineer here – It’s worth clarifying the situation with Google Docs. No docs are being removed from the creator’s account. Apparently, some shared docs have had sharing restricted if some internal automatic classifier thought they contained “abusive” content. I’m not on the docs team and I don’t have details about what is considered “abusive”, but I do know that it would include things like links to malware sites.

    I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the dilemma we’re in is that many (possibly most?) countries in which we do business require us to ensure that certain content not be displayed (e.g. pro-Nazi content in Germany). We can’t review content manually: there’s too much of it. So we have software that does it, and sometimes (always) software has bugs.

    As a conservative, this can be a difficult place to work. But I will say one thing as an insider: the top people here genuinely are trying to balance the various forces that constrain what we can and cannot do. We’re big enough now that national justice systems are deeply interested in what we do. We have hundreds of millions – billions – of users. We’re simply not going to please everybody all of the time.

    • #18
  19. Dean Murphy Member
    Dean Murphy
    @DeanMurphy

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy: Google scans the content of your Google Docs, which some might find a wee bit unsettling.

    Only a wee bit? ;)

    I’ve been gradually disconnecting from Google for the last couple of years. It maybe time to pick up the pace.

    Yup. I have NextCloud running on my own home server, but I haven’t used it very much because my Internet connection has very slow upload speeds.

    OK, upon your suggestion I downloaded NextCloud and hooked up with Ocloud.de.

    so you’re shipping your data to Germany now?

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    James Jones (View Comment):
    Google engineer here – It’s worth clarifying the situation with Google Docs. No docs are being removed from the creator’s account. Apparently, some shared docs have had sharing restricted if some internal automatic classifier thought they contained “abusive” content. I’m not on the docs team and I don’t have details about what is considered “abusive”, but I do know that it would include things like links to malware sites.

    I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the dilemma we’re in is that many (possibly most?) countries in which we do business require us to ensure that certain content not be displayed (e.g. pro-Nazi content in Germany). We can’t review content manually: there’s too much of it. So we have software that does it, and sometimes (always) software has bugs.

    As a conservative, this can be a difficult place to work. But I will say one thing as an insider: the top people here genuinely are trying to balance the various forces that constrain what we can and cannot do. We’re big enough now that national justice systems are deeply interested in what we do. We have hundreds of millions – billions – of users. We’re simply not going to please everybody all of the time.

    I think part of the “solution” might be balkanizsation of the internet. There are  many ways in which doing this kind of business with repressive regimes can compromise our own freedoms. This is just the latest example.

    • #20
  21. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Of course Google scans the content of you documents. The company’s entire business model is based on gathering as much information as they can so they can sell targeted advertising. I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about that, as long as it’s clear that that’s what they’re doing, and Google has generally been very clear about what you’re agreeing to. Of course, it’s incumbent upon the user to pay attention to that stuff, and nobody reads “Terms of Service” documents.

    But yeah, everything you store on Google’s servers — e-mail, photos, documents, files in Google Drive — is subject to their data gathering. That doesn’t mean that humans are reading your stuff, but it does mean that it’s being scanned by automated processes, including algorithms that look for terms-of-service violations. Glitches are bound to happen.

    • #21
  22. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    James Jones (View Comment):
    Google engineer here – It’s worth clarifying the situation with Google Docs. No docs are being removed from the creator’s account. Apparently, some shared docs have had sharing restricted if some internal automatic classifier thought they contained “abusive” content. I’m not on the docs team and I don’t have details about what is considered “abusive”, but I do know that it would include things like links to malware sites.

    I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the dilemma we’re in is that many (possibly most?) countries in which we do business require us to ensure that certain content not be displayed (e.g. pro-Nazi content in Germany). We can’t review content manually: there’s too much of it. So we have software that does it, and sometimes (always) software has bugs.

    As a conservative, this can be a difficult place to work. But I will say one thing as an insider: the top people here genuinely are trying to balance the various forces that constrain what we can and cannot do. We’re big enough now that national justice systems are deeply interested in what we do. We have hundreds of millions – billions – of users. We’re simply not going to please everybody all of the time.

    This comment gives me a modicum of peace on the topic. Thank you.

    Honestly, if my little life titillates Google, go for it. LoLz.

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    Glitches are bound to happen.

    You can be penalized heavily if you glitch your income tax return.

    • #23
  24. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I sympathize with companies like Google breaking into foreign markets — none of which shares the American high standard of free speech, even in theory. When a government like China’s insists on restrictions, the company’s choice is between benefiting the Chinese people a little or not at all. Refusing to do business with oppressive regimes just leaves their peoples in the dark.

    Restricting content is not the same as aiding the oppressor to entrap or hunt down violators. There’s active participation in oppression and then there’s working within the constraints already in place.

    Journalists might seem to be most affected by this bug not only because they use the software a lot but because they are most apt to publicize their problems. A reporter is also more likely than a programmer to include offensive content in documents.

    What concerns me is that automatically transferring document content to Google for ad algorithms creates one more opportunity for hackers to steal that content or enter the system.

    • #24
  25. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    James Jones (View Comment):
    Google engineer here …

    And you’re willing to admit it on a conservative website?!

    ;-)

    • #25
  26. Polyphemus Inactive
    Polyphemus
    @Polyphemus

    James Jones (View Comment):
    Google engineer here – It’s worth clarifying the situation with Google Docs. No docs are being removed from the creator’s account. Apparently, some shared docs have had sharing restricted if some internal automatic classifier thought they contained “abusive” content. I’m not on the docs team and I don’t have details about what is considered “abusive”, but I do know that it would include things like links to malware sites.

    I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the dilemma we’re in is that many (possibly most?) countries in which we do business require us to ensure that certain content not be displayed (e.g. pro-Nazi content in Germany). We can’t review content manually: there’s too much of it. So we have software that does it, and sometimes (always) software has bugs.

    As a conservative, this can be a difficult place to work. But I will say one thing as an insider: the top people here genuinely are trying to balance the various forces that constrain what we can and cannot do. We’re big enough now that national justice systems are deeply interested in what we do. We have hundreds of millions – billions – of users. We’re simply not going to please everybody all of the time.

    Even if Google were aligned with me in their idealogy and values, the fact is that they are just too big and have their fingers into and control too much data gathering to feel okay about. The fact that their corporate culture willingly, openly and proudly excludes conservative worldviews just makes it all the more clarifying. Google needs to be undermined and resisted. My hope is that market forces will do this. If not, litigation is perhaps the path forward (ala the Prager U lawsuit against YouTube). I’m not sure how to think about direct government action along the lines of anti-trust or any kind of regulation. I don’t like that idea but I want to see more discussion of a conservative response to corporate censorship in our republic. Google is becoming a force for evil despite their hubristic motto of the past.

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    When a government like China’s insists on restrictions, the company’s choice is between benefiting the Chinese people a little or not at all.

    It might be that benefiting the Chinese people not at all is a greater benefit than benefiting them a little.

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Polyphemus (View Comment):

    James Jones (View Comment):
    Google engineer here – It’s worth clarifying the situation with Google Docs. No docs are being removed from the creator’s account. Apparently, some shared docs have had sharing restricted if some internal automatic classifier thought they contained “abusive” content. I’m not on the docs team and I don’t have details about what is considered “abusive”, but I do know that it would include things like links to malware sites.

    I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the dilemma we’re in is that many (possibly most?) countries in which we do business require us to ensure that certain content not be displayed (e.g. pro-Nazi content in Germany). We can’t review content manually: there’s too much of it. So we have software that does it, and sometimes (always) software has bugs.

    As a conservative, this can be a difficult place to work. But I will say one thing as an insider: the top people here genuinely are trying to balance the various forces that constrain what we can and cannot do. We’re big enough now that national justice systems are deeply interested in what we do. We have hundreds of millions – billions – of users. We’re simply not going to please everybody all of the time.

    Even if Google were aligned with me in their idealogy and values, the fact is that they are just too big and have their fingers into and control too much data gathering to feel okay about. The fact that their corporate culture willingly, openly and proudly excludes conservative worldviews just makes it all the more clarifying. Google needs to be undermined and resisted. My hope is that market forces will do this. If not, litigation is perhaps the path forward (ala the Prager U lawsuit against YouTube). I’m not sure how to think about direct government action along the lines of anti-trust or any kind of regulation. I don’t like that idea but I want to see more discussion of a conservative response to corporate censorship in our republic. Google is becoming a force for evil despite their hubristic motto of the past.

    Yabbut, there are alternatives to Google products.  Nobody’s forcing you to use Google.

    • #28
  29. Typical Anomaly Inactive
    Typical Anomaly
    @TypicalAnomaly

    Boiled down:

    Take comment 18, @jamesjones makes it clear the automated scanning and classification of the content happens and even if they didn’t want to, business and legal drivers force it. So don’t fool yourself, the snooping capability is not the stuff of conspiracy theorists, it’s there and it’s not new.

    Add to it comment 21 where @bartholomewxerxesogilviejr points out that this scanning and classification is not some plot by rogue engineers, it’s in the design and business model and made plain as day by the terms of service nobody ever reads.

    The “free” stuff on the internet isn’t free.

    The question: “Do you know what you’re using to pay for the free stuff?”
    The answer: “Your privacy.”

    And it isn’t only Google, they’re just the best at it.

    • #29
  30. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Over the last week or so when I type in Drudge, it used to come up – no more. It goes to my provider’s search engine. If I type in Drudge Report, it brings up a menu and the top one says Drudge Report – Warning. There is no issue on Internet Explorer or Bing. My sister in MD has had the same issue. What’s this about?

    When doing searches starts acting strangely, my instinct is that something has been messing with the browser. Might be worth checking to see if there are any new extensions installed, or if the default search engine has been changed. And a virus scan never hurts.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.