A growing number of leading left-wing websites have confirmed that their search traffic from Google has plunged in recent months, adding to evidence that Google, under the cover of a fraudulent campaign against fake news, is implementing a program of systematic and widespread censorship.
Truthout, a not-for-profit news website that focuses on political, social, and ecological developments from a left progressive standpoint, had its readership plunge by 35 percent since April. The Real News , a nonprofit video news and documentary service, has had its search traffic fall by 37 percent. Another site, Common Dreams , last week told the WSWS that its search traffic had fallen by up to 50 percent.
As extreme as these sudden drops in search traffic are, they do not equal the nearly 70 percent drop in traffic from Google seen by the WSWS.
“Something has happened with Google across the board that affects left-wing media in a big way,” said Scott LaMorte, a web developer for both Truthout and The Real News.
“This is absolutely an aberration. It’s a three-year low for both Truthout and The Real News, and likely unprecedented in the life of these organizations. Neither have previously experienced three straight months of declines as they have since May.”
“It’s not like everybody on the left suddenly changed their SEO [Search engine optimization],” LaMorte said. “I don’t think it was a change in Google’s algorithm in how they value SEO practices.”
Eric Maas, a search engine optimization consultant working in the San Francisco Bay area, said his team has surveyed a wide range of alternative news sites affected by changes in Google’s algorithms since April. “These sites, which have had their search traffic fall by up to 67 percent, have a diverse range of content strategies and compliance with best practices advocated by Google and SEO experts.”
“This is political censorship of the worst sort; it’s just an excuse to suppress political viewpoints,” said Robert Epstein, a former editor in chief of Psychology Today and noted expert on Google.
The massive drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”
In a set of guidelines issued to Google evaluators in March, the company instructed its search evaluators to flag pages returning “conspiracy theories” or “upsetting” content unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”An interesting story, Paul Mozur's "China’s Internet Censors Play a Tougher Game of Cat and Mouse," appeared in the business page of The New York Times last week. The tech giants are working with the Chinese government to strengthen its Great Firewall:
Chinese censors tested on Thursday [August 3] a new way of shutting down websites and cutting off the country’s internet users from the rest of the world. The censorship drill targeted tools that many in China use to thwart the country’s vast online censorship system, though internet companies said it also hit some sites at random.
China has embarked on an internet campaign that signals a profound shift in the way it thinks of online censorship. For years, the China government appeared content to use methods that kept the majority of people from reading or using material it did not like, such as foreign news outlets, Facebook and Google. For the tech savvy or truly determined, experts say, China often tolerated a bit of wiggle room, leading to online users’ playing a cat-and-mouse game with censors for more than a decade.
Now the authorities are targeting the very tools many people use to vault the Great Firewall. In recent days, Apple has pulled apps that offer access to such tools — called virtual private networks, or VPNs — off its China app store, while Amazon’s Chinese partner warned customers on its cloud computing service against hosting those tools on their sites. Over the past two months a number of the most popular Chinese VPNs have been shut down, while two popular sites hosting foreign television shows and movies were wiped clean.
Studies suggest that anywhere from tens of millions to well over a hundred million Chinese people use VPNs and other types of software to get around the Great Firewall. While the blocks on foreign television shows and pornography ward off many people, they often pose only minor challenges to China’s huge population of web-savvy internet users.
China’s online crackdowns are often cyclical. The current climate is in part the result of the lead-up to a key Chinese Communist Party meeting, the 19th Party Congress this autumn. Five years ago, ahead of a similar meeting, VPNs were hit by then-unprecedented disruptions.My guess is that cracking down on VPNs had very little to do with the upcoming Communist Party Congress and much to do with "keeping up with the Jones." The PRC saw the tech giants kneeling in fealty to the Western deep state, and they wanted a similar display of obeisance. They got it.