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Is it good for democracy if Google pulls out?

By Jeff John Roberts
April 28, 2016

A livestream of the Republican Party’s convention, slated for mid-July in Cleveland, will be available to anyone with an Internet connection thanks to Google.

Politico reported on Thursday that the search giant confirmed that it will be the official streaming provider, and that it will supply other tools to help voters get information about election trends and watch campaign videos.

The stream will presumably be provided by YouTube, which was the official livestream provider for both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2012. (Both Google FB and YouTube are now divisions under the holding company known as Alphabet googl .)

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This year, however, Google’s decision to take on an official role at the GOP convention is triggering a major controversy. The reason is likely Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has made a series of incendiary comments about women and various ethnic groups.

Protesters and some party leaders have said that he is unfit to lead the country. According to Politico, a number of activist groups staged a protest on Thursday outside Google’s California headquarters and presented a petition of 500,000 names that called on the company to withdraw from the convention.

Other sponsors are also under pressure to pull out of the event.

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In the case of livestreaming, however, the validity activists’ position is debatable. In my view, whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, political conventions are an important part of the democratic process, and voters everywhere should be able to see for themselves how they unfold.

Driving away the livestream sponsor (be it Google or Facebook FB or any other company with the technology to stream to millions of homes) will instead force some voters who can’t be in front of a television to rely instead on second-hand accounts. It’s also worth noting that live-streaming is emerging as a competitor to television, and also provides a means for viewers (and voters) to interact with each other through social media.

Google did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. I’ll update if I hear back.

 

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