In the wake of claims that Google got a think-tank research team sacked for criticizing the company, a respected journalist is alleging other abuses by the search giant. Kashmir Hill, a reporter at Gizmodo, is claiming that when she worked for Forbes six years ago, Google told the the magazine's staff that if publishers didn't add the "+" Google Plus social network button at the bottom of stories, those articles would come up lower in search results. From her report: I published a story headlined, "Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers," that included bits of conversation from the meeting. (An internet marketing group scraped the story after it was published and a version can still be found here.) Google promptly flipped out. This was in 2011, around the same time that a congressional antitrust committee was looking into whether the company was abusing its powers. Google never challenged the accuracy of the reporting. Instead, a Google spokesperson told me that I needed to unpublish the story because the meeting had been confidential, and the information discussed there had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement between Google and Forbes. (I had signed no such agreement, hadn't been told the meeting was confidential, and had identified myself as a journalist.) It escalated quickly from there. I was told by my higher-ups at Forbes that Google representatives called them saying that the article was problematic and had to come down. The implication was that it might have consequences for Forbes, a troubling possibility given how much traffic came through Google searches and Google News. [...] Given that I'd gone to the Google PR team before publishing, and it was already out in the world, I felt it made more sense to keep the story up. Ultimately, though, after continued pressure from my bosses, I took the piece down -- a decision I will always regret. Forbes declined comment about this. But the most disturbing part of the experience was what came next: Somehow, very quickly, search results stopped showing the original story at all. As I recall it -- and although it has been six years, this episode was seared into my memory -- a cached version remained shortly after the post was unpublished, but it was soon scrubbed from Google search results. That was unusual; websites captured by Google's crawler did not tend to vanish that quickly.
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