Google’s now-infamous censorship programs and algorithms, built into the firm’s search engine software, are not merely suppressing alternate news sites, but also ignoring or diverting search results away from important news stories being reported by conventional news organizations. In an attempt to prioritize “reliable” news sites, Google News searches have been found to return as top stories links to a number of non-critical news subjects, including sports, travel, weather, and popular entertainment.
Google recently outsourced to various sub-contractors an effort to identify websites that traffic in unreliable or fake news stories and “de-index” them. Not only has Google’s censorship adversely affected independent news media, but has resulted in U.S.-specific news stories being reported under the topic of “World News” and vice versa. As a result of its adjustments to its search algorithms and indexing criteria, Google has become, itself, an unreliable news resource. However, Goggle is not the only search engine in the censorship and “de-indexing” business. Bing and Yahoo have engaged in the same practices.
For example, Google News’s “World” section today includes a story from The Hill on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign being dogged by infighting and over-confidence. This is not an international story but is included as one by Google News.
Another “World” story is a Washington Post story about an Oregon woman who cheered up her dying husband by telling him that Donald Trump had been impeached. Links about the same story in The Oregonian and the New York Daily News also appear under the “World” news title. Another “world” story is one in Politico about Trump opting to travel to his Bedminster, New Jersey, country club instead of his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida during the upcoming summer months. Add to that, under “World” news, a CNN story about Trump’s inauguration beating all previous fundraising records. These stories should have appeared under Google’s section designed for “U.S. News.”
Found under “U.S. News” is a New York Times story about Trump doing an about-face and supporting continued U.S. involvement in the Paris climate accord. Since this story concerns an international environmental agreement signed in Paris, France, why did Google not place it under “World” news?
There are also reports that Google accommodates certain problematic governments by ensuring that only favorable news items appear as the result of Google News searches. For example, Qatar is known to be a major financier of jihadist rebel groups in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. But do not expect to find any news on this to show up in a Google News search. Instead, one will find favorable stories on Qatar Airways establishing a direct air route from Doha to Dublin, Qatar Airways Cargo expanding its operations at Brussels airport, and Uganda’s dictator Yoweri Museveni signing a defense pact during a state visit to Doha.
Similar “puff piece” articles appear as a result of Google News searches on Abu Dhabi (“Abu Dhabi taking up biodiesel”—Biofuels International Magazine), Bahrain (“VIDEO: The best on board action from Bahrain”—Formula 1), Dubai (“Dubai, the World’s Vegas”—The New Yorker; “Rapper 50 Cent headed for Dubai next week”—Khaleej Times), Of course, there is nothing going on in the Persian Gulf other than tennis tournaments, road rallies, and rap concerts. Never mind the fact that Bahrain is massacring its majority Shi’a population and Erik Prince of Blackwater infamy is leading a mercenary force based in Abu Dhabi.
Such propaganda pabulum was once regular fare in the pages of the Soviet-era newspapers Pravda and Izvestia. Readers of such propaganda not so fondly recall the “news” about increased annual wheat yields in the Ukrainian SSR and a Moscow summit meeting between the fraternal Communist leaders of the USSR and the Mongolian People’s Republic. Such propaganda, masked as “news,” is now regular fare on Google News.
It is also suspicious that rather than featuring any political stories about Qatar, Google News is carrying stories from the Qatar English-language press on the Qatar Cup tennis finals, the Qatar Cross-Country Rally, and the Qatar Motor Show. All appear to be “placed” advertisements, masked as news stories. One could reasonably inquire as to whether Google receives payments from the government of Qatar and other wealthy Gulf states in return for promoting such fluff stories as news items. If so, Google News’s placement of stories from Al Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, should be seen in the light of favorable search engine and indexing treatment—for a price.
If such obvious and repeated errors appeared in a print or online newspaper or magazine, several editors’ heads would roll. Google is as sloppy with its news reporting as the cable news networks, which consistently baffle and confuse viewers with incorrect scrolling information in their chyrons—particularly political party affiliations—and faulty maps, video clips, and photographs.
Imagine a library, when they were the chief public repositories of information, placing domestic newspapers and magazines on shelves reserved for international periodicals. By de-indexing certain news and websites, Google searches will turn up zero results on certain queried information. It is as if a public library would have removed certain newspapers and magazines from their shelves and placed them in a locked storeroom. Of course, professional librarians would have quickly rectified such situations. It is obvious that Google neither cares about information management nor has an interest in cleaning up its news offerings and search results.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).