The Case for the Google Doodle

Google's January 20, 2014 Doodle commemorates Martin Luther King Jr.
Google’s January 20, 2014 Doodle commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, the Washington Post released an Op-Ed article entitled “The case against the Google Doodle.” In the opinion piece, Justin Moyer argues that Google oversteps its boundaries as a search engine by affiliating itself with different historical figures through its popular Doodles. These Doodles decorate the Google logo to celebrate significant events. (If you check the Google homepage today, you’ll find a Doodle commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Moyer particularly takes issue with the fact that Google “celebrates African Americans in Doodles but won’t release its minority hiring statistics.” Moyer makes the seemingly friendly Google Doodles politically and ethically incorrect, but are they really?

Moyer has to keep in mind that he is not representative of the average Google user. Most people do not know about Google’s privacy lawsuits and copyright violations. To the average person, Google is the home page on their computer and a primary source of information.

What is troubling is not Google’s legal entanglements but the data that Google reveals about its frequent users.  Two of Google’s top searches terms in 2013 were “what is twerking” and “Miley Cyrus.” Every person in the top ten people searched on Google was a pop icon. Doodle gives Google the ability to shape what people search and therefore what people know.  As Moyer conceded in his article, if Google did not use a Doodle to celebrate the 123rd birthday of Zora Neal Hurston – a prominent African American author – many might have never heard about her.  The Doodle spurred articles about Hurston from TIME, Huffington Post, and LA Times, further spreading awareness about the classic American figure.

While Google may be embroiled in some legal and internal issues, the company is perceived as innovative and attractive to many Americans.  If those on the Google Doodle team are going to continue to use its immense popularity to cleverly educate the public and celebrate great figures of history, we should support them.

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