A political nuke has detonated in Silicon Valley, and Google is ground zero.
Late Tuesday, excerpts from a reportedly leaked internal Google document were published by The Daily Caller. The excerpts, if accurate, confirm what conservatives have long suspected — that conservatives are being actively suppressed by arguably the most powerful company in the world.
The Daily Caller reported that a Google blacklist of websites includes right-leaning publishers such as the Conservative Tribune (a property of The Western Journal), as well as “Gateway Pundit, Matt Walsh’s blog, Gary North’s blog ‘teapartyeconomist.com,’ Caroline Glick’s website … and the website of the American Spectator.”
The impact of this leak can hardly be overstated. Google is already reeling — and panicking, as the quality of its first response to the leak reflects — because of how bad this looks for a company that has vociferously denied rigging its products against conservatives.
But far and away the most devastating part of the leak, which Google doesn’t deny is authentic, appears to confirm that Google CEO Sundar Pichai either misleadingly parsed the truth or did, in fact, lie to a committee of the United States Congress.
On Dec. 11, 2018, Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about allegations of Google’s bias. Pichai worded his responses very carefully, but he’ll live to regret four damning words: “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result” (emphasis added).
Conservatives have long thought that Google has been suppressing their points of view, making it harder for some conservative news and opinion — and probably other content — to make it into the top section of the page Google displays when a user searches a word or phrase that might be in the news.
The leak appears to confirm that is happening. The most damaging item is an alleged memo obtained by The Daily Caller on how Google’s blacklist is managed.
The memo states in part:
“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” (emphasis added).
Google’s defenders might say that such a system’s existence doesn’t prove Pichai’s lying. But that isn’t true. The system described in that memo uses a ‘manual review tool’ that helps catalog websites Google claims are violating its terms of service. Once a site is determined to be in severe enough violation, it is added to a .txt file containing a list of blacklisted domains. Those websites then will not appear in Google News and potentially other search products.
The system doesn’t target one particular search result. It targets vast numbers of particular search results — results that would lead to blacklisted sites.
To the extent that that is true — and Google has denied none of that, to our knowledge — Pichai was lying.
Google and its protectors appear to be staking their defense on the idea that the manual review tool doesn’t affect what they call ‘blue link” results (“blue links” is a jargon term referring to the top 10 links Google returns for most searches). They’re quick to point out that Pichai’s “no manual intervention” answer referred to blue links. But it didn’t.
Remember, the manual intervention comment came up during the Judiciary Committee meeting when Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., asked Pichai why searching the term “idiot” returned pictures of President Donald Trump. The pictures she was talking about were not blue links. They were images. That means Pichai’s answer did not refer to blue links. He was most likely referring to another Google search product — Google Images.
This is not about blue links. It’s about Google blacklisting sites so that results skew against them.
This should be a clarion call to war for conservative members of Congress. Free speech is under attack. If we lose free speech on the internet, we’re finished. Traditional media is circling the drain. Print newspapers are dying.
Who needs to burn books when Google can just press “delete”?
UPDATE, April 12, 2019: The day 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.
However, because all of the examples listed by The Daily Caller were conservative, this opinion piece focused on conservative news and opinion. In light of the new information, we have issued this update and lightly edited the piece to make it more clear that publishers other than right-leaning may also have been affected by Google’s blacklisting.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.