Google and a number of other big tech companies have been scrutinized in recent months for their alleged ideological bias and their treatment of information based on that bias.
In March, Google, Amazon, IBM and other Texas businesses sent a letter to the Texas state legislature announcing they would oppose legislation that protects business owners who refuse service to individuals based on religious beliefs.
“We will continue to oppose any unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive measures that would damage Texas’ reputation and create problems for our employees and their families,” the letter read, according to The Associated Press.
“These include policies that explicitly or implicitly allow for exclusion of LGBTQ people, or anyone else, as well as the preemption of municipal nondiscrimination laws, in whole or in part.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai told members of the House Judiciary Committee in December that the search giant is run “without political bias” and “provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions.
“To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests,” he said, according to Fox News.
Google News is significantly different than Google’s search engine. According to Google News Publisher Center, “Google News works by pulling feeds from publishers and crawling the web.”
For a publisher’s content to be viewable in Google News, it has to submit its content to be included and need to make sure its content follows Google’s guidelines.
Despite this, there are many publishers with a significant following that do not appear on Google News, even if they have been on the news aggregation site before.
The following is a list of 50 publishers known to receive a significant amount of online traffic from Facebook. The publishers on the left appear in Google News and the publishers on the right do not.
“The danger of Google arbitrarily limiting a user’s results is that it will give the false impression that what a user sees is the outcome of a neutral platform delivering an objective service. But in actuality, Google is picking winners and losers in their news app based on Google’s internal ideology,” said Shaun Hair, the executive editor of The Western Journal.
“What makes that doubly nefarious is that Google refuses to admit they have an ideological bias and refuses to be transparent about how their bias affects their products.”
“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 Google policy document obtained by The Daily Caller reads.
The blacklist applies to most search features, like “top news” and “videos.”
“On the blacklist are a number of conservative sites, including Gateway Pundit, Matt Walsh’s blog, Gary North’s blog ‘teapartyeconomist.com,’ Caroline Glick’s website, Conservative Tribune, a property of The Western Journal and the website of the American Spectator.”
A source within The Daily Caller told The Western Journal 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 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.
“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.”
We have policies for Google News to ensure that we’re surfacing news, from sites like Daily Caller in fact, and not deceptive or sponsored content: https://t.co/oiIqYzBnsA
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) April 9, 2019
The Western Journal and Google News
The Western Journal was previously in Google News and received a large amount of traffic from the platform until the end of 2018.
On Dec. 1, The Western Journal discovered that content from TWJ and all of its sections was not appearing in Google News. The Western Journal immediately issued a trouble ticket to Google.
Google said that an error had occurred because a noindex tag had been incorrectly applied, but after a thorough check of the content, the tag could not be found anywhere on the website.
Google News responded that it is “currently investigating the issue and will surely get back to you as soon as we’ve any updates.”
Two weeks went by with The Western Journal asking for updates to resolve the issue. Google only responded after it was asked for a comment by a Breitbart News reporter.
“Our systems detected an unusually large amount of non-original and republished content on The Western Journal, which is a violation of Google News policy,” a Google spokeswoman told Breitbart News.
“When we detected this behavior, we removed this site from the Google News corpus in adherence to this policy. Our enforcement of policy does not consider the perceived political leanings of a website whatsoever.”
Patrick Brown, the CEO of The Western Journal publisher, Liftable Media, responded to Breitbart, confirming that The Western Journal had still not heard directly from Google about this issue.
“That’s the first we’ve heard of that issue from Google. We do syndicate Associated Press and Daily Caller News Foundation stories on our site, so potentially that’s the issue,” he said.
“However, we’ve never received any message indicating that was an issue, our publisher console still says we are included and indexed in Google News with no warnings, and we’ve been reaching out to Google for many days with them just saying there is some unspecified error, which doesn’t line up at all with their statement.”
The vast majority of other news publications also syndicate content from the AP or DCNF but do not appear to have an issue in Google News.
“Again, this is a small percentage of our content, and we are only finding out about this 2 months after the fact indirectly after being strung along by support for nearly two weeks. I’m fairly certain this is not how Google treats other sites in the top 150 in the United States in terms of viewership,” Brown said.
Google finally responded on Dec. 15, a day after the release of the Breitbart article, echoing the claims made by the Google spokesperson to Breitbart. The Western Journal fixed anything it believed could be causing the problem and again reached out to Google.
Emails throughout the month of January were met with radio silence until Google responded on Jan. 29 saying that the website still had “unoriginal and republished content” and engaged in practices that could be construed as “deceptive” to users.
The Western Journal then conducted a full audit of its content and process that showed it complied with Google’s policies and sent that audit to Google on March 14. The Western Journal never heard back.
The Western Journal is still not in Google News, and its section Conservative Tribune by WJ is allegedly on the blacklist.
Other Blacklisted Websites
The Western Journal reached out to the other websites on the list to see if they have had a similar problem.
Matt Walsh said he was surprised to learn he was on the list because he uses his website as a portal for people to find his contact information and work.
“I don’t track the traffic to my site anymore because I don’t post unique content there,” he said in an email to The Western Journal.
Melissa Mackenzie, The American Spectator’s publisher, said that their website had a very similar experience with Google as The Western Journal.
The American Spectator had just redone its website and implemented new standards in order to apply to the different news platforms. It was accepted everywhere it applied — except Google News.
“The thing that I don’t understand [is] you have some outright propaganda sources in Google News and we are not included,” Mackenzie said. “Russia Today is on Google News and we’re not?”
American Spectator has been trying to work with Google News and received similar complaints of unoriginal content, but Mackenzie said that everything the site posts is original or syndicated content.
Google has since stopped replying.
“If you’re going to reject us, you at least have to tell us why and have transparent standards,” Mackenzie said.
Implications of Google controlling the news
The Western Journal has still not seen the alleged blacklist The Daily Caller leaked, but there are much larger implications for any publication, left or right, being excluded from Google News.
The First Amendment right to free speech is for everyone and big tech companies should not be policing which voices get to be heard. When voices are silenced, the exchange of ideas is hindered and a founding principle of our nation is at stake.
The Western Journal has reached out to Google for comment but has not yet received a response. The article will be updated if and when Google responds.
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