Transport tycoon Sir Brian Souter has had his official personal website blocked by Google.
Now the chief executive and founder of bus and train giant Stagecoach Group is to embark on a campaign to end manipulation of which websites can be seen and which are blocked by search engines.
The first salvo in the campaign will involve making representations to Westminster’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee asking for an investigation into how Google is controlling our right to free speech in the UK.
Until August 13, Sir Brian’s official website www.briansouter.com was one of the first listings which showed up on typing the search term “Brian Souter” into Google. The site then mysteriously disappeared.
“It’s not Google’s place to decide which sites we can see and those we can’t” said Souter’s PR and web media adviser Gordon Beattie.
“It amounts to search engine censorship and it does not afford what Google says it is striving to create – a good user experience.
“We wrote to Google on August 22 asking why Sir Brian’s site was no longer listed on the search engine and the mumbled response was algorithm changes.
“They suggested one tweak to the website which we immediately made but to this day his site remains out of bounds on Google searches.
“We find it unacceptable that Google can simply remove an information site like Sir Brian’s from its listings and give no helpful information as to why it has disappeared.
“We are now asking the question – is it time legislation was enacted to curb Google’s power over free speech on the internet.
“We have seen a public outcry over the abuse of power at the News of the World. Let’s hope Google sees the wisdom of maintaining its search neutrality and takes immediate steps to protect its editorial propriety.”
If you type the name “Brian Souter” into the Google search engine today his site is not listed. You can only access the site via the search bar by typing in www.briansouter.com and, as Beattie points out, that negates the requirement for a search engine.
Sir Brian’s official website tells his life story, includes a photo gallery and carries news updates. It is not a commercial site nor is it used for political purposes.
Beattie added: “Google needs to come clean and tell us why the official Brian Souter website has vanished. They also need to inform us how many other bona fide and non commercial sites have suffered a similar fate.”