FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information

In early January, numerous websites discovered that they were suddenly removed from the directory of Google News, a process known as “delisting,” with no feedback from Google. Some hypothesized that the removal of smaller news sites could be ascribed to the latest SEO changes.   Then on 8 January, Google reported that it was ready to rectify its “mistake” and restore the pages by of these smaller new sites. The vast majority were not restored.  Still, a large number news sites have been abandoned and editors have been making updates daily since January on Google’s ProductForum with many users still noting, even this week, of ongoing problems

The delistings have ostensibly occurred  because of violations of Google’s rules which have been constantly changing and causing upheaval for smaller news sites to keep up with the changes.  However, many smaller media sites are quite skeptical given that several of Google’s updates on the situation that did not square with what larger news companies were being told.  And some, in fact, only found out recently that they had been delisted months earlier.

Regardless of the reasons, Google’s alterations in recalibrating search algorithms for quality improvement, advanced trading algorithms for its Cloud Platform,  and even ongoing issues with the algorithm for Street View, Google maintains tremendous influence in shaping and making intelligible databases of news and information, effectively being the medium through which news stories are found. The recent delistings have affected many independent news websites such as that of Yale Global, Yale University’s site dedicated to special reports and news on globalization,  IN.com, an Indian-based news site, and A Redação, an independent Brazilian news site. 

When Google’s infrastructure fails or system updates result in incorrect information being disseminated throughout the Inter-Web, human lives can be vastly and negatively affected.  Upon closer examination of these delistings, it becomes manifestly obvious that Google wields far too much control over our lives and the of sustainability of smaller media sites.  When one studies the long list of enterprises affected, the range of information being limited is profound even outside of general independent news sites. There is also a huge sector of specialty news sites which have been undercut by these delisting, such as news related to: investment, data management, loan companies, and sports.  Add to this the recent implementation of the “right to be forgotten” in England and Wales which was decided this past week.  Fundamentally, we need to question the hyper-centralization of all media agencies, the visibility and accessibility is completely controlled by one very powerful corporation.  

Since last Fall, Google has been criticized for what many deem to be its monopoly of free speech since it is a company which is considered extremely powerful, even more herculean than most countries on the planet.  While Google claims to be supportive of “free speech,” what Google is not saying is that it is only supportive of the free-speech which it approves.

In a 2016 legal challenge to Google, a Florida federal court reached some interesting conclusions in a lawsuit filed by e-ventures.  The court ruled that Google had legally overstepped in delisting many of its links. Google defended itself, citing  Section 230, the “Good Samaritan” clause which states no third-party company can be found liable for actions it takes to remove content it finds questionable.  Google also cited the First Amendment. The court disagreed with both of Google’s arguments.

Google has also exercised control over YouTube, which is is owned by Google, and it has also been charged with censoring videos by numerous users.  In 2017, Jordan Peterson, Canadian professor and controversial figure in the free speech movement, was temporarily blocked from YouTube.    In October 2017, Google finally conceded that YouTube had been censoring conservative voices after Dennis Prager, a conservative talk radio figure, filed a lawsuit against YouTube which was recently dismissed.

In response to accusations that Google has censored conservative voices, it has in recent months been surveilling how various leftist news sites are treated.  But Google is not alone in this crackdown.  Facebook has likewise been accused of having policies that permit the proliferation of fake news and  Facebook has likewise been accused of helping Donald Trump to his presidential victory.  This theory stems from the fact that in the weeks leading up to the US elections in 2016, the Trump campaign invested approximately $150m in Facebook advertisement.  

With regard to the EU ruling last June on Google’s violation of anti-competitive law, it is incumbent upon Google to hold a public debate about its place in the world. And for those of us concerned about the transparent access to information that is unfettered, we must consider  if Google, along with other corporate heavyweights, is unfair to smaller new sites and especially unsafe for democracy.  Having had catchphrase which was once “Don’t be evil” and today is “Do the right thing,” Google is failing pitifully at both.  

More articles by:

Julian Vigo is a scholar, film-maker and human rights consultant. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). She can be reached at: julian.vigo@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
Paul Edwards
Peak Hubris
Tamara Pearson
US and Corporations Key Factors Behind Most Violent Year Yet in Mexico
Jonah Raskin
Love and Death in the Age of Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Climate Confusion, Angst, and Sleeplessness
W. T. Whitney
To Confront Climate Change Humanity Needs Socialism
John Feffer
Examining Trump World’s Fantastic Claims About Ukraine
Nicky Reid
“What About the Children?” Youth Rights Before Parental Police States
Binoy Kampmark
Incinerating Logic: Bush Fires and Climate Change
John Horning
The Joshua Tree is Us
Andrew Stewart
Noel Ignatiev and the Great Divide
Cesar Chelala
Soap Operas as Teaching Tools
Chelli Stanley
In O’odham Land
November 13, 2019
Vijay Prashad
After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia
Charles Pierson
How Not to End a Forever War
Kenneth Surin
“We’ll See You on the Barricades”: Bojo Johnson’s Poundshop Churchill Imitation
Nick Alexandrov
Murder Like It’s 1495: U.S.-Backed Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
George Ochenski
Montana’s Radioactive Waste Legacy
Brian Terrell
A Doubtful Proposition: a Reflection on the Trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Nick Pemberton
Assange, Zuckerberg and Free Speech
James Bovard
The “Officer Friendly” Police Fantasy
Dean Baker
The Logic of Medical Co-Payments
Jeff Mackler
Chicago Teachers Divided Over Strike Settlement
Binoy Kampmark
The ISC Report: Russian Connections in Albion?
Norman Solomon
Biden and Bloomberg Want Uncle Sam to Defer to Uncle Scrooge
Jesse Jackson
Risking Lives in Endless Wars is Morally Wrong and a Strategic Failure
Manuel García, Jr.
Criminalated Warmongers
November 12, 2019
Nino Pagliccia
Bolivia and Venezuela: Two Countries, But Same Hybrid War
Patrick Cockburn
How Iran-Backed Forces Are Taking Over Iraq
Jonathan Cook
Israel is Silencing the Last Voices Trying to Stop Abuses Against Palestinians
Jim Kavanagh
Trump’s Syrian See-Saw: From Pullout to Pillage
Susan Babbitt
Fidel, Three Years Later
Dean Baker
A Bold Plan to Strengthen and Improve Social Security is What America Needs
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Trump’s Crime Against Humanity
Victor Grossman
The Wall and General Pyrrhus
Yoko Liriano
De Facto Martial Law in the Philippines
Ana Paula Vargas – Vijay Prashad
Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?
Thomas Knapp
Explainer: No, House Democrats Aren’t Violating Trump’s Rights
Wim Laven
Serve With Honor, Honor Those Who Serve; or Support Trump?
Colin Todhunter
Agrarian Crisis and Malnutrition: GM Agriculture Is Not the Answer
Binoy Kampmark
Walls in the Head: “Ostalgia” and the Berlin Wall Three Decades Later
Akio Tanaka
Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica
Nyla Ali Khan
Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail