When Algorithms Censor

First they came for the socialists… (boldface mine):

In the three months since Internet monopoly Google announced plans to keep users from accessing “fake news,” the global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly

By flagging content in such a way that it does not appear in the first one or two pages of a search result, Google is able to effectively block users’ access to it. Given the fact that vast amounts of web traffic are influenced by search results, Google is able to effectively conceal or bury content to which it objects through the manipulation of search rankings.

Just last month, the European Commission fined the company $2.7 billion for manipulating search results to inappropriately direct users to its own comparison shopping service, Google Shopping. Now, it appears that Google is using these criminal methods to block users from accessing political viewpoints the company deems objectionable.

The World Socialist Web Site has been targeted by Google’s new “evaluation methods.” While in April 2017, 422,460 visits to the WSWS originated from Google searches, the figure has dropped to an estimated 120,000 this month, a fall of more than 70 percent.

Even when using search terms such as “socialist” and “socialism,” readers have informed us that they find it increasingly difficult to locate the World Socialist Web Site in Google searches.

According to Google’s webmaster tools service, the number of searches resulting in users seeing content from the World Socialist Web Site (that is, a WSWS article appeared in a Google search) fell from 467,890 a day to 138,275 over the past three months. The average position of articles in searches, meanwhile, fell from 15.9 to 37.2 over the same period….

In the three months since Google implemented the changes to its search engine, fewer people have accessed left-wing and anti-war news sites. Based on information available on Alexa analytics, other sites that have experienced sharp drops in ranking include WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News and Truthout. Even prominent democratic rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.

As I’ve discussed before, I’m not a socialist, but, in spite of all the hullabaloo about AI, this sort of algorithmic censorship is very disconcerting.

Bust the Google monopoly.

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2 Responses to When Algorithms Censor

  1. I’ve noticed that even when I’m not looking for articles about our current president* or even use his name (because I don’t), articles about him appear.

  2. Morbeau says:

    I tried it, and World Socialist was the first result. But I live in Canada if that makes any difference.
    This is just a cheap way to crowdsource SEO on behalf of World Socialist Web Site!! (/kidding)

    Is it even possible for Google not to do stuff like this? I mean, they’re the pinnacle of Silicon Valley’s Capitalist morality, and they must think they’re doing “good” (the opposite of that thing we’re not supposed to be…). Like my environmentally responsible, lefty friends who mysteriously forget all about that stuff when they get a job in the oil industry here in Calgary. “Oh yes, jobs and the economy are very important to the environment.”

    Thanks for this.

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