Last week and again this week, the Observer (Sunday sister paper of the Guardian) has pressured Google to censor its search results to filter out "far right" websites that convey "off-message" information.
Google must urgently review its search ranking system because of “compelling” evidence that it is being “manipulated and controlled” by rightwing propagandists, leading academics have said, after the Observer reported that hate sites are now dominating searches on Muslims, Jews, Hitler and women. Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and the author of Weapons on Math Destruction, said that unless Google acknowledged responsibility for the problem, it would be a “co-conspirator” with the propagandists.Source
In response to this pressure, Google actually altered its search results to take out unfavourable references to Jews and negroes.
Google had removed the lines suggesting that Jews and black people are evil and that blacks “commit more crimes”, but it is still suggesting Muslims were “bad” and that Islam “should be destroyed”.
While Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of revelations about how the site had become a conduit for fake news, the problem facing Google is potentially even more intractable. O’Neil said that she believed Google would ultimately have to hire human editors.
She said: “There’s a a growing list of social media empires that have been attempting with all their power and might to claim that they don’t have editorial responsibility, but they have been proven wrong. “They have been proven wrong by this troll army, and quite clearly when it comes to the questions that require a subtle understanding of the truth versus lies, they are going to have to use human judgment.
“It is clearly very frightening what is going on here. Google has done a huge amount of work to avoid exactly this scenario. And yet the troll army has still managed to break through all its resources and defences. It is very troubling and they are clearly very, very good at this, but it’s why Google has to own this problem. It is doing a terrible job here.
“Twenty years ago, these sites with these views … they would have been completely shut out by the mainstream press, but we have replaced our guardians of information with algorithms that are dumb and that can be toyed with and manipulated.”This week Google is being castigated for providing links to sites that offer critical information about the deaths of Jews during World War Two.
Did the Holocaust really happen? No. The Holocaust did not really happen. Six million Jews did not die. It is a Jewish conspiracy theory spread by vested interests to obscure the truth. The truth is that there is no evidence any people were gassed in any camp. The Holocaust did not happen.
Are you happy with that answer? Happy that if you have children, this is what they’re being exposed to? That all across America and France and Hungary and Holland and Britain, when people ask that question, this is what they are clicking on and reading and absorbing? No? Well, then, we really, really need to talk about Google. Right now. Because these are the “facts” of what happened according to the number one source of information to the entire planet. Type this into your Google search bar: “did the hol”. And Google suggests you search for this: “Did the Holocaust happen?”
And this is the answer: no. The top result is a link to stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi site and an article entitled: “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen”. The third result is the article “The Holocaust Hoax; IT NEVER HAPPENED”. The fifth is “50 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen.” The seventh is a YouTube video “Did the Holocaust really happen?” The ninth is “Holocaust Against Jews is a Total Lie – Proof.” This is what Danny Sullivan, the editor of SearchEngineLand, a leading expert on Google search, means when he says “something has gone terribly wrong with Google’s algorithm”. Stormfront describes itself as “the voice of the new, embattled white minority… a community of racial realists and idealists”. It’s the kind of site that Gideon Falter, the chair of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, says is being used to radicalise a new generation of extreme, violent, rightwing individuals. It’s where Anders Breivik used to hang out online. It’s where, on its discussion forum, users gathered to celebrate the murder of Jo Cox.Source
Did Breivik actually hang out on Stormfront? I thought he was more a Gates of Vienna kind of guy.
The fact that "far right" websites, much like non-far-right websites, link to one another is being portrayed as some sort of sinister conspiracy.
A week ago I wrote in the Observer about how rightwing websites have successfully colonised a vast swathe of the internet. About how they have gamed Google’s algorithm. About how Jonathan Albright, an associate professor at Elon University in the US, had mapped them to show how they have become a vast and growing ecosystem that is encroaching on the mainstream news and information infrastructure like a cancer. How Google, with all its money and resources, is being owned by hate sites who have hijacked its search results.She implies that "rightwing websites" have gained this prominence unfairly; that they have somehow rigged the system. But the truth is the exact opposite, as Google's hand-editing of search results to take out the "Jews are evil" reference shows. The system is rigged against the Right. If the Right somehow manages to prevail nonetheless, as it did with Trump and Brexit, it is due to the splendid power of truth and the fact that ordinary people are tired of having the parameters of acceptable thought defined for them by an alliance of left-wing zealots and powerful corporations.
The Observer article ends with a poignant and hysterical expression of grief about the Left ("Our") losing its monopoly on the public conversation.
The right is on the rise everywhere. And that includes on the internet. It is creating more content that is travelling wider and further. It has changed both the questions being asked – did the Holocaust actually happen? Are Jews evil? Should Islam be destroyed – and answered. It is in the process of remaking the world, rewriting history, rewiring minds, changing the conversation, reframing the questions and answers. It’s our world. Our internet. Our history. And we have to wake up to what is happening right now on the laptop on our desk, the phone in our pocket, the tablet in our children’s bedrooms.On Sky News this week, (((Andrew Solomon))) continued the attack on free speech.
"Every time there has been a shift in what kind of media are in circulation, there has been an explosion. To some extent it was the popularity of radio that allowed Stalin and Hitler to come to power. To some extent it was the advent of the printing press that led to the Thirty Years War. With the advent of the internet, there is a new flood of a new kind of information and people haven't yet worked out the ways to filter it. We'd need much longer than we have in this interview to go through what all of the ways to filter it might be but I think there has to be a concerted effort by people who are interested in speaking the truth in identifying that what they say is the truth and a more sophisticated ability to get those true statements out."