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Here Are the 5 Problems with Google's Response to Leaked Blacklist Targeting Conservative Sites

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A leaked document reportedly shows that Google blacklists specific conservative websites from its search results, and the tech giant’s pathetic response failed to address the most damning portions of the leak.

The leaked Google document was obtained by The Daily Caller, which reported that the Conservative Tribune, the commentary section of The Western Journal, was one of at least several conservative websites blacklisted from Google’s search results.

“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,” the policy document read, according to The Daily Caller.

“What that means,” according to The Daily Caller, “is that 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, like ‘top news,’ ‘videos’ or the various sidebars that are returned as search results.”

After The Daily Caller article was published, Google offered a “response,” but didn’t address the real issues the report revealed.

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This is Google’s response, as published by The Daily Caller:

“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.”

Google issued an identical response when contacted by The Western Journal.

George Upper, then-managing editor of The Western Journal, pointed out the problems with Google’s response in Twitter thread Tuesday.

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The response contained five fatal flaws that basically amounted to the Google statement saying nothing worthwhile, Upper wrote.

“TDC did not release the actual document on which the story is based. However, Google’s subsequent statement seems to confirm the story, in that the statement sounded good while not actually denying any of the very damning statements in the article,” Upper tweeted.

Google claimed that it does 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,” Upper wrote. “The article accused them of neither of these activities.”

“The Western Journal has been excluded completely from Google News search results. No algorithm or policy is required for them to do so. We have reached out to Google multiple times over the past six months to ask why we have been excluded,” Upper explained.

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Google’s “response” referred to its publicly available guidelines and policies, but nobody is disputing the existence of the company’s guidelines.

“The policies aren’t in question; their application is,” Upper wrote.

“The Western Journal adheres to those policies. In fact, our own Editorial Standards are arguably more stringent than Google’s policies.”

The Google statement closes with a denial that its policies affect the “organic blue link” results of a Google search. But that’s a red herring.

“Absolutely no one is talking about ‘organic blue-link Google Search results,'” Upper wrote. “Google stands accused of excluding The Western Journal and others from Google News results. “

And all of that can only lead to the conclusion that The Daily Caller’s report on Google’s “blacklist” was on target.

As Upper put it:

“Google’s non-response to the accusations against the company and CEO @sundarpichai, who told Congress in December that ‘we don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,’ implies that it has no better response – i.e., The Daily Caller’s report is accurate,” Upper wrote.

Google might have hoped its statement to The Daily Caller would answer the report. Instead, it just confirmed its worst accusations.

UPDATE, April 12, 2019: Two days after this article was published, The Western Journal received additional information from a source within The Daily Caller that indicated that Google’s blacklist was not limited to conservative or right-leaning websites and that such websites may not even constitute the majority of sites on the list.

The Western Journal has not seen either the entire list or the excerpt of the list in the possession of The Daily Caller, and therefore has no way to verify the accuracy of this description independently. The ideological leanings of the websites included in the list, however, is not relevant to the point that Sundar Pichai’s claim that Google employees do not “manually intervene” in search results appears, if these documents are authentic and accurate, to have been a calculated deception.

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Malachi Bailey is a writer from Ohio with a background in history, education and philosophy. He has led multiple conservative groups and is dedicated to the principles of free speech, privacy and peace.
Malachi Bailey is a writer from Ohio with a passion for free speech, privacy and peace. He graduated from the College of Wooster with a B.A. in History. While at Wooster, he served as the Treasurer for the Wooster Conservatives and the Vice President for the Young Americans for Liberty.
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