At Wednesday’s House subcommittee hearing on big tech, Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan was told he was engaging in “fringe conspiracy theories” by Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon as she tried to redirect the subject from his questioning of Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, whose company controls Google and its associated platforms.
Scanlon wasn’t specific about what these “fringe conspiracy theories” entailed, but one of the things that Jordan questioned Pichai about was the fact that the search engine “has censored Breitbart so much” that traffic to the site has precipitously declined.
He also mentioned the Daily Caller, another conservative news site that has apparently drawn the wrath of Google.
This part, at least, is hardly fringe — and both publications have the data to back it up.
On Tuesday, a day before the hearing, Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari penned a piece reminding everyone that “[a] few days after the 2016 election, at an internal meeting later leaked to Breitbart News, top Google executives, including Sundar Pichai, Sergey Brin, and Kent Walker, lamented President Trump’s victory, comparing Trump voters to ‘extremists’ and discussing their desire to make Trump’s election and the populist movement a ‘blip’ in history.”
To the extent that censoring the conservative website accomplished that goal, they succeeded, with Bokhari saying Google had been “purging Breitbart content from search results” in the intervening years.
“Search visibility is a key industry measure of how findable a publisher’s content is in Google search. New data shows that Google has suppressed Breitbart’s search visibility by 99.7 percent since 2016,” he wrote.
“On April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top ten search positions (i.e., on the first page of Google search results) for 355 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top ten search positions for only one search term. And, on April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top 100 search positions for 16,820 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top 100 search positions for only 55 search terms.
“Moreover, organic Google search traffic to Breitbart (measured by unique visitors) is down 63 percent when comparing the first half of 2016 with the first half of 2020.”
Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll noted a similar effect, too — retweeting a clip of Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz saying that Google had manually altered certain search results
The idea that we ended up on some blacklist because of some compliance partnership with law enforcement to stop extremism or election interference is just absurd.
We have accredited personnel all over Washington, DC. We are not ISIS. https://t.co/AAAzfeHBgC
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) July 29, 2020
Ingersoll derided Google’s excuse that the Daily Caller “ended up on some blacklist because of some compliance partnership with law enforcement to stop extremism or election interference.”
The Daily Caller also discovered a similarity with Breitbart’s experience — namely, that their search visibility had declined precipitously since May 4, the same date that Breitbart noticed a downward trend in traffic for search terms related to Joe Biden:
Specifically we struggled with search slowly dwindling until May 4 exactly. We broke down the analytics. The May 4 flat line is clearly the result of the human hand in the process.
As Breitbart breaks down here, they felt a similar effect.https://t.co/LdAcHVY0zR
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) July 29, 2020
“What we’ve been experiencing since at least last year culminated just this past May with an absolute annihilation of our search traffic. This isn’t a hare-brained, half baked conspiracy or another verbal testimony from some whistleblower. It’s hard numbers, Google’s own numbers, in fact,” Ingersoll told Breitbart.
“I had my tech guys dig in and the analytics show that first we were quarantined from the general population, then later basically all but shut out of search. The reduction was stark, from May 3 to the very next day, May 4.
“The idea that the discrepancy can be dismissed as an algorithm update is obscene. Like your graph shows, and our internal audit shows, the presence of a human hand tipping the scales is unmistakable.”
The night before the hearing, Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to discuss Google’s political interference:
In the segment, Marlow said that “in May of this year, we virtually lost all Google traffic, all search traffic altogether.
“Let me give you some specific pieces of data — a Google track, something called a visibility index — this is sort of like their Nielsen score. That’s when your content shows up on one of their pages. Breitbart’s is down 99.7 percent. Overall our Google traffic is down nearly two-thirds.
“If you want to search for ‘Joe Biden’ or ‘Biden,’ the chance of you getting a Breitbart article are virtually zero, Tucker. Virtually no opportunity for you to get it unless, of course, you add the word Breitbart, which explains what’s left of our Google traffic,” he said.
“Naturally, we looked at other outlets to see if there’s a pattern. Of course, we have more access to our own data, but we compared the top 50 or so top publishers, and we found that eight out of the bottom 10 when it comes to Google search are right-of-center outlets. That includes Fox News and even the Daily Caller, as one of the two outlets that actually somehow performed worse than Breitbart.”
And what’s Google’s explanation if not some sort of politicized human interference?
“They won’t tell us specifically why. They only provide vague talking points about things that are way out of our control, that are non-specified, are totally subjective,” Marlow said, adding he thought “this is 100 percent about the 2020 election and controlling the narrative and controlling what people read.
“If outlets like Breitbart cannot reach new voters via Google, then that is going to be all the more people who are getting their news 100 percent from CNN, The New York Times and the people who would do anything in their power to get Joe Biden into the White House.”
As conservatives who bring this sort of information up are constantly reminded, Google is a business, and aren’t we supposed to let businesses make their own decisions?
In the segment, Carlson pointed out the flaw in this theory: Google is “the gateway to all human information in English.”
It has a monopoly on web searches which has been almost impossible to break. Even Microsoft, among the only other tech companies on Earth anywhere near as powerful as Google, failed to make an appreciable dent with their Bing search engine.
Google doesn’t just control search. It has the most powerful video platform in YouTube, the most powerful email platform on earth in Gmail and — perhaps most worrisome for conservative media — the most powerful web advertising platform in Google Ads. If they don’t like you, no matter how popular your content may be, they can ensure you can’t monetize it.
And Democrats are fine with Google having that power. Google, like most Silicon Valley giants, has a corporate culture with left-of-center politics baked into it.
In fact, Democrats think it’s particularly troublesome when these companies don’t act on their liberal political beliefs to crowd out other viewpoints — as with Facebook, which was raked over the coals for not “fact-checking” posts from President Donald Trump by putting disclaimers on them, essentially branding them as untrue.
These aren’t “fringe conspiracy theories.” They’re merely the facts.
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