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Breaking Report: Western Journal Blacklisted by Google, Despite CEO's Testimony to Congress

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Google reportedly blacklists news sites by manipulating search results, contrary to congressional testimony offered by the tech giant’s CEO in December.

Among the conservative sites Google has blacklisted, according to The Daily Caller, is the Conservative Tribune, which is the commentary section of The Western Journal.

“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 a policy document obtained by The Daily Caller.

The blacklist applies to most search features, like “top news” and “videos.”

Seeking to address the notion Google has an anti-conservative bias, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren asked the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai during testimony on Dec. 11, 2018, why the search term “idiot” returned a photo of President Donald Trump.

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“We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,” Pichai claimed. “It is not possible for an individual employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”



The Daily Caller reported that an internal document it obtained shows the process Google uses to blacklist news organizations, and it’s clear there is a manual component. The document was last edited on Dec. 3, 2018, the very week Pichai testified.

The list is informed by Google’s “misrepresentation policy” and “good neighbor policy.”

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The document reads: “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 document also specifically mentions a “manual review tool.”

“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 Daily Caller reached out to Google for comment and received the following statement:

“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.

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“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.”

George Upper, The Western Journal’s managing editor, responded to Google’s reported blacklist in a series of tweets.

“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,” he wrote.

Upper explained that after ignoring The Western Journal’s inquiries for weeks, Google finally responded to a reporter from Breitbart News by providing a list of generic policy violations by The Journal, none of which the news site found any evidence of after numerous internal audits.

Upper further argued that Google’s policies are not in question, but the application of those policies is: “The Western Journal adheres to those policies. In fact, our own Editorial Standards are arguably more stringent than Google’s policies.”

The Western Journal contacted Google for comment and received the same statement sent to The Daily Caller.

Though specifically asked, Google did not address why The Western Journal has been blacklisted from the news search feature.

UPDATE, April 12, 2019: Three 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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Randy DeSoto has written more than 1,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Birthplace
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Graduated dean's list from West Point
Education
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith




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