By Andre Damon
World Socialist Web Site (8/8/17)
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.
“While the update may be targeting specific site functions, there is evidence that this update is promoting only large mainstream news organizations.”
“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.
Epstein said that at this point, the question was whether the WSWS had been flagged specifically by human evaluators employed by the search giant, or whether those evaluators had influenced the Google Search engine to demote left-wing sites. “What you don’t know is whether this was the human evaluators who are demoting you, or whether it was the new algorithm they are training,” Epstein said.
Google’s level of control
Richard Stallman, the world-renowned technology pioneer and a leader of the free software movement, said he had read the WSWS’s coverage on Google’s censorship of left-wing sites. He warned about the immense control exercised by Google over the Internet, saying, “For people’s main way of finding articles about a topic to be run by a giant corporation creates an obvious potential for abuse.”
According to data from the search optimization tool SEMRush, search traffic to Mr. Stallman’s personal website, Stallman.org, fell by 24 percent, while traffic to gnu.org, operated by the Free Software Foundation, fell 19 percent.
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. “While the update may be targeting specific site functions, there is evidence that this update is promoting only large mainstream news organizations. What I find problematic with this is that it appears that some sites have been targeted and others have not.”
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.”
(The WSWS will continue to expose and fight Google’s program of political censorship, but we need the help of our readers. Please share this article by email and social media, donate to the WSWS, and sign up for email updates .)
The author also recommends:
- Google blocked every one of the WSWS’s 45 top search terms
[4 August 2017]
- Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites
[2 August 2017]
- New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites
[27 July 2017]
Fake News Bots Are Here And Having More & More Influence
By Tom Ashbrook
On Point / WBUR (8/9/17)
Russian Twitter bots and more haven’t stopped pumping out propaganda and disinformation since the election. We’ll look at the power and prevalence of social media bots.
How do you judge public opinion on any given issue? What others are thinking? Paying attention to? If social media play into your read, watch out. When it comes to politics in particular, social media can be overrun with, twisted by, bots. Automated accounts – not real people — deployed in their hundreds and thousands to pump a certain perspective on news online. The president responded to a bogus account this weekend – welcoming its support. This hour On Point: bots invade the political world.
- Sam Woolley, director of research of the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. (@samuelwoolley)
- Newsweek: Russian Bots Are Starting To Attack The Republican Party — “Russian-linked bots and trolls have caused a surge in use of the hashtag #ResignPaulRyan on Twitter over the last 48 hours, just as the Republican speaker of the House was returning to his home state of Wisconsin for a month-long respite from Washington, D.C. The unusual boost in Russian bots targeting a Republican lawmaker was first observed by the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, created after the 2016 presidential election to ‘defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.'”
A Question To Consider Now: When The Internet Is Choked Off How Will We Organize & Protest?
By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (8/3/17)
The clampdown on the internet is well underway. The free flow of diverse information and the ready access to alternative opinion and stories that question – much less challenge – the international corporate powers is now being whittled down. While the clampdown is more obvious and onerous in places like Russia, China, Turkey and smaller despotic countries, it is – make no mistake about it – happening in the United States as well.
Don’t for a moment assume we are immune. Trump and his flying monkeys in congress will probably succeed at undoing net neutrality which will quickly devolve to different tracks of service and accessibility and usability of certain sites. It will begin the unraveling of the net as we know it. Once it begins it will quickly accelerate. Information is power and those in power are determined to choke off the flow of information … to us.
Think creatively and experiment with different forms of communication, connection, civil education and creative means of protest and resistance. Truly, time is short.
We on the left need to begin looking now for alternative routes to slip around the growing internet blockade and to magnify the digital access we do have. We will also need to reacquaint ourselves with pre-digital age means of mass communication and organizing ranging from street bills, underground publications grafitti to street theater and stencil art. Remember short wave radio? Let us hope the hackers and program designers on the side of freedom and humanity find ways to undermine and even destroy the digital roadblocks now being assembled.
Pray for the safety of patriotic whistleblowers and the liberation of documents the public has a right to see. Speak up and out for internet neutrality and freedom whenever possible. If we can’t stop the inevitable we need to delay it and buy as much time as possible.
I urge every reader to go to the home page of The Commoner Call and scroll down the righthand column to the “When The Shit Hits The Fan” feature and print out the PDF of Gene Sharp’s handbook on civil protest, “From Dictatorship to Democracy”. Make a copy – or two – and tuck away some place safe. Believe me, we will need it sooner than any of us would like to admit.
In the meantime begin to think creatively and experiment with different forms of communication, connection, civil education and creative means of protest and resistance.
Truly, time is short.
(Commoner Call cartoons and commentary by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )