Google’s motto may be “make money without doing evil“, but they are assuming powerful market control over their AdWords marketplace, which I would argue has a value equal to their market cap, approx. $111 Billion(!). Compare this to the value of the NASDAQ marketplace, just $3.4 Billion.
If Google decides that a word may not be bid on, they can unilaterally remove it from the marketplace. Trademark owners have tried to force Google to do this (famous case of Google vs. GEICO) but in fact, Google actually does this at its own discretion.
A similar situation happens in their natural search listings, for example Google banned BMW from appearing because of allegedly deceptive content. The BMW car company has apparently fixed it’s ways, and they’re back — they don’t have an alternative!
What happens if my company is no longer in their favor – and we get banned from advertising on the Google search engine? Google’s search engine market share has become dominant, twice as large as the next player, Yahoo, according to Nielsen//NetRatings in November 2005. We have to be in Google, whether we like it or not.
This is akin to being a local merchant in a small town with just one newspaper – of course, people can still find you, but if that paper doesn’t want to carry your ads, you’re out of luck.
If Google were completely transparent in its operation and the way their AdWords marketplace functioned, like a true stock market, then I could accept their soon-to-be monopoly position, probably with some sort of government oversight. As it is now, they are assuming monoploy-like power, but still operating as a proprietary, obscure company.
“Do no evil” may be their sincere mission, and I have no reason to doubt that, but they will need to live up to that goal with action, not just statement.