A Genius plan used Morse code to catch Google ‘red-handed’

The lyrics company Genius used Morse code to prove Google was playing dirty.


June 18, 2019

Like most sites on the internet, the lyrics website Genius relies on Google for most of its web traffic.

So when Genius discovered that Google was copying its lyrics and displaying them directly, it was understandably peeved and asked Google to stop in 2017.

But Google, which is often criticized for stifling search competition, denied any wrongdoing. So Genius got creative…

So it tapped 1830s tech to take down Google

To prove that Google was ripping off its lyrics, Genius had to catch Google in the act. So the company devised a way to digitally watermark its lyrics, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It worked like this: Genius built an imperceptible series of alternating straight apostrophes (dots) and curved apostrophes (dashes) into its lyrics. When laid out in sequence, these apostrophes create a message in Morse code: “RED HANDED.”

The proof is in the ’postrophe

Caught red-handed, Google issued a statement saying that its lyrics are licensed from 3rd parties, not created internally. 

A representative from Google partner LyricFind insisted that it creates its own lyrics and does not source its content from Genius.

Now, Google says it’s investigating the issue raised by Genius. But it doesn’t exactly require a cryptologist to read between these lines…

The tyranny of Google’s one-stop shop

Genius isn’t alone: Once Google decides to hop into a new industry, it’s notorious for prioritizing its own results over the competition’s — even when it copies the competition.

For years, Yelp and TripAdvisor have criticized Google for prioritizing its results in search listings, and an FTC investigation found that Google ranks its own flights and shopping deals over competitors’.

Google’s goal is to provide info directly, without having to refer users to other websites. Big G already hides competitors’ results for simple searches like dates, times, conversions, and calculations — and an increasing number of searches go no further than Google.

On mobile devices, 62% of searches never leave Google. Google’s desktop dominance is also growing: Between 2016 and today, desktop searches that never leave Google have risen from 9% to 35%.

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