Google and advertising: digital capitalism in the context of Post-Fordism, the reification of language, and the rise of fake news
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Google’s dominance over the web allows it to dictate various norms and practices that regulate the state of contemporary capitalism online. The way in which Google operates as a company and generates revenue is often sidelined in academic discussions regarding the cultural implications of how its search engine functions. Almost 90% of Google’s revenue is derived from advertising, despite Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s original academic paper regarding Google in which they argue that advertising produces mixed motives that make it an unfeasible way to fund search engines. This article outlines how Google’s model of advertising reflects and encourages wider changes in capitalism as it shifts from its twentieth-century Fordist incarnation to contemporary Post-Fordist arrangements of labour. In doing so, this article analyses Google’s two main advertising systems, AdWords and AdSense, and proposes that these financial models have significant effects upon online discourse. In discussing AdWords, this article details some of the tensions between the local and the global that develop when tracing flows of information and capital, specifically highlighting Google’s impact on the decline of online language diversity. In outlining AdSense, this article demonstrates how Google’s hegemonic control prescribes which parts of the web can be monetised and which remain unprofitable. In particular, in drawing from existing studies, evidence is provided that Google’s AdSense programme, along with Google’s relationship with Facebook, incentivised the rise of fake news in the 2016 US presidential election. This work builds on existing scholarship to demonstrate that Google’s economic influence has varied and far-reaching effects in a number of contexts and is relevant to scholars in a range of disciplines. As such, this article is intended as a discursive introduction to the topic and does not require specific disciplinary background knowledge. In doing so, this article does not attempt to provide the final word on Google’s relationship to digital capitalism, but rather, demonstrate the profitability of a Post-Fordist perspective, in order to enable a wider engagement with the issues identified.
This research was supported through funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [Digital Humanities Doctoral Award (Reference 1099)]
This is the final version of the article. Available from Palgrave Macmillan via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 3, article 45