Google thought the article was “problematic.”
The incident occurred in 2011. Hill was a cub reporter at Forbes, where she covered technology and privacy. At the time, Google was actively promoting Google Plus and was sending representatives to media organizations to encourage them to add “+1” buttons to their sites. Hill was pulled into one of these meetings, where the Google representative suggested that Forbeswould be penalized in Google search results if it didn’t add +1 buttons to the site.
Hill thought that seemed like a big story, so she contacted Google’s PR shop for confirmation. Google essentially confirmed the story, and so Hill ran with it under the headline: “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers.”
Hill described what happened next:
Google never challenged the accuracy of the reporting. Instead, a Google spokesperson told me that I needed to unpublish the story because the meeting had been confidential, and the information discussed there had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement between Google and Forbes. (I had signed no such agreement, hadn’t been told the meeting was confidential, and had identified myself as a journalist.)
It escalated quickly from there. I was told by my higher-ups at Forbes that Google representatives called them saying that the article was problematic and had to come down. The implication was that it might have consequences for Forbes, a troubling possibility given how much traffic came through Google searches and Google News.