While the purpose of the hangout isn’t crystal clear, it may be just one more example of how the company is steadily moving deeper into the realm of political advocacy.
The Hangout, according to an email sent by Google to users, will feature “a technologist/author and three YouTube stars.”
The technologist and author mentioned is none-other than Clay Johnson, co-founder of Blue State Digital, the software company that ran President Obama’s 2008 online campaign. No longer affiliated with the company, Johnson is now an author and blogger at The Information Diet (also the name of his book).
The topic of the Hangout is quite open-ended: Google says it is about “the future of the Internet and what it means for creativity online,” and asks vistiors to its Take Action page to “Submit your questions, thoughts and stories and we’ll use those to drive the conversation. This is just the beginning, so tell us what you’d like to see.”
Google Plus Hangouts, for the unacquainted, are simultaneous video chat (or conferencing) events involving one or more speakers, who broadcast themselves in separate boxes to the Web and solicit questions from users.
Though Google’s latest hangout doesn’t feature many especially well-known speakers, it’s worth noting because it comes on the heels of the company’s recent re-activation of the “Take Action” political webpage.
The page itself was launched in January to drum up opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill designed to fight online piracy that would have forced Google and other websites to completely remove links to foreign webpages or domains accused of piracy by U.S. copyright holders.
For three months thereafter, the site remained basically dormant, but Google on April 9 suddenly reactivated it, encouraging users who had joined the company in the fight against SOPA to begin sharing what the Internet meant to them on social networks, using the hashtag #OurWeb.
Now that that website has been reactivated, Google appears to be attempting to re-engage users who signed up on an email list hosted by the company to consider Web politics.
As Google’s “chief Internet evangelist,” Vint Cerf wrote in an email to users on Friday: “We’ll just reach out from time to time in order to connect you to thoughtful people to discuss issues that matter to the future of the Internet. Only together can we advance its power for everyone’s benefit.”
The move comes at an interesting time, with Google and Facebook being among the 800 companies who are backing a new controversial cybersecurity bill known as CISPA, which advocacy groups that were formerly allied with the companies have compared to SOPA.