Documents show Google manually manipulates search

By Art Moore

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies in a House hearing Dec. 11, 2018 (video screenshot)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies in a House hearing Dec. 11, 2018 (video screenshot)

Newly obtained documents show Google maintains a “news blacklist” and manipulates its search results manually, contrary to the company’s official denials.

The Daily Caller reported one of the documents shows the “XPA news blacklist” is governed by two official policies, the “misrepresentation policy” and the “good neighbor policy.”

Google’s Trust & Safety team is “in charge of updating the blacklist as when there is a demand,” reads one of the documents shared with the Daily Caller.

“The deceptive_news domain blacklist is going to be used by many search features to filter problematic sites that violate the good neighbor and misrepresentation policies,” states the policy document.

The document notes the policy was approved by, among others, Ben Gomes, Google’s head of search, who reports directly to CEO Sundar Pichai.

The policy also was approved by Paul Haahr, a software engineer whose bio on Google’s internal network Moma indicates he is also involved in “fringe ranking: not showing fake news, hate speech, conspiracy theories, or science/medical/history denial unless we’re sure that’s what the user wants.”

“The purpose of the blacklist will be to bar the sites from surfacing in any Search feature or news product. It will not cause a demotion in the organic search results or de-index them altogether,” reads the policy document obtained by the Daily Caller.

That means targeted sites will not be removed from the “ten blue links” portion of search results. But the blacklist applies to most of the other search features, including “top news” and videos.

The Daily Caller noted Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11 that Google doesn’t manually manipulate search results.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., asked Pichai why a search for the term “idiot” returned a photo of President Trump.

Pichai said, “This is working at scale, we don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”

But the Daily Caller cited a document that describes a manual component in the process by which a site can be blacklisted for “deceptive news.”

The document states:

The beginning of the workflow starts when a website is placed on a watchlist which is used for monitoring of sites to determine if they violate the Good Neighbor Policy. This watchlist is maintained and stored by Ares with access restricted to policy & enforcement specialists working on the Good Neighbor Policy. Access to the listing can also be shared at the discretion of counsel and legal investigations on a need to know basis to enforce or enrich the policy violations. The investigation of the watchlist is done in the tool Athena, the Ares manual review tool, and intakes signals from Search, Webspan, and Ares in order to complete reviews.

Once a domain is determined to be violating the misrepresentation policy or the Good Neighbor Policy, such patterns are then added to deceptive_news_blacklist_domains.txt by the Trust & Safety team.

The document indicates a “manual review tool” is among the devices used to maintain the blacklist.

Conservative sites on the list, the Daily Caller said, include Gateway Pundit, Matt Walsh’s blog, Caroline Glick’s website, Conservative Tribune and the American Spectator.

A Google spokesman told the Daily Caller after the story was published: “We do not manually determine the order of any search result, nor do our algorithms or policies attempt to make any judgement on the political leanings of a website. Our Google News inclusion policies are publicly available online. They provide guidelines on content and behaviors for matters like sponsored content, deceptive practices, and more. Sites that do not adhere to these policies are not eligible to appear on news surfaces or in information boxes in Search. These policies do not impact the way these sites appear in organic blue-link Google Search results.”

Bury conservative reporting

WND reported last month a Google manager allegedly responded to an employee who questioned the company’s war on “fake news” by arguing that fake news and “hate speech” had to be stopped, because “that’s how Trump won.”

In November, the Daily Caller reported Google employees debated whether to bury the reporting of conservative media outlets in the company’s search function in response to Trump’s election. Employees similarly sought to manipulate search results to combat Trump’s travel ban, the communications showed.

In an interview with WND at the time, Robert Epstein – who was famed behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner’s last Ph.D. student at Harvard – said Google’s effort to reverse to defeat Trump confirms his extensive, peer-reviewed research over the past half decade.

“Not only does Google have the power to shift votes and opinions on a massive scale, they actually use that power,” Epstein said.

During the 2016 election campaign, Epstein concluded that Google heavily biased results in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, possibly shifting as many as 3 million votes.

A video leaked in September showed Google executives at their first weekly meeting after Trump’s election exhibiting panic and dismay while expressing their determination to thwart the new administration’s agenda as well as the emerging global populist movement.

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