Friday, July 28, 2017

Google's Program of Political Censorship

UPDATE: World Socialist Web Site has a page devoted to Google censorship, on which there are a couple additions to Thursday's revelation about the impact of Google's recent blacklist algorithm.

This is a huge story. So far it appears that only Robert Parry of Consortium News is sounding off about it. Neither Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism nor Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch, two vocal critics of the PropOrNot blacklist, have said anything.

The foundering neoliberal political establishment is pulling out the stops. What's next, midnight raids? It's too late though. The problem isn't bloggers or the masses. The problem is at the top of the pyramid.


A must-read is "New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites" by Andre Damon and Niles Niemuth:
In the three months since Internet monopoly Google announced plans to keep users from accessing “fake news,” the global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly.
On April 25, 2017, Google announced that it had implemented changes to its search service to make it harder for users to access what it called “low-quality” information such as “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.”
The company said in a blog post that the central purpose of the change to its search algorithm was to give the search giant greater control in identifying content deemed objectionable by its guidelines. It declared that it had “improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates” in order “to surface more authoritative content.”
Google continued, “Last month, we updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag.” These moderators are instructed to flag “upsetting user experiences,” including pages that present “conspiracy theories,” unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”
Google does not explain precisely what it means by the term “conspiracy theory.” Using the broad and amorphous category of fake news, the aim of the change to Google’s search system is to restrict access to alternative web sites, whose coverage and interpretation of events conflict with those of such establishment media outlets as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
By flagging content in such a way that it does not appear in the first one or two pages of a search result, Google is able to effectively block users’ access to it. Given the fact that vast amounts of web traffic are influenced by search results, Google is able to effectively conceal or bury content to which it objects through the manipulation of search rankings.
Just last month, the European Commission fined the company $2.7 billion for manipulating search results to inappropriately direct users to its own comparison shopping service, Google Shopping. Now, it appears that Google is using these criminal methods to block users from accessing political viewpoints the company deems objectionable.
The World Socialist Web Site has been targeted by Google’s new “evaluation methods.” While in April 2017, 422,460 visits to the WSWS originated from Google searches, the figure has dropped to an estimated 120,000 this month, a fall of more than 70 percent.
Even when using search terms such as “socialist” and “socialism,” readers have informed us that they find it increasingly difficult to locate the World Socialist Web Site in Google searches.
It is no shock that Google is engaging in political censorship. Governments have put pressure on internet Goliaths Google and Facebook to blacklist non-mainstream news and commentary pages. WSWS provides the proof.

What is interesting is that Google is censoring webpages that are "low-quality" and/or espouse "conspiracy theories." According to Edward Curtain in "The Deep State, Now and Then,"
[A]s I wrote in January: the deep state has gone shallow. Fifty years ago the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK. All the media echoed the CIA line. While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the MSM is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the Attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc., the coup in Ukraine, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing – everything. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.
Google's censorship is a much softer version of the Great Firewall of China. Websites are buried instead of being blocked outright. But the idea that the Occident is somehow ontologically more tolerant than the Orient should be dispensed with.

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