Google’s right-wing blacklist: Ex-engineer at tech giant says glitch which blocked some conservative websites from appearing in their search may have exposed a secret internal list which suppresses certain outlets
Station Gossip – July 21, 2020
Google may have a ‘secret blacklist’ of conservative news outlets, a former engineer at the company has claimed, which he says was exposed on Tuesday when certain websites briefly vanished from Google search results.
Mike Wacker, a Google engineer who was fired from the company in June 2019 amid a row over his conservative ideology, said the brief incident on Tuesday suggested a ‘blacklist’.
‘It appears to have revealed the existence of another blacklist that disproportionately targets conservatives,’ Wacker told Mediaite.
‘The glitch is that sites on this blacklist disappeared from Google search results, but the existence of the list is very much by design.
‘And that raises a major question: Why was this blacklist created in the first place, and what else is it used for?’
Websites including Breitbart, The National Pulse, The Drudge Report, and Human Events vanished from Google’s listings on Tuesday morning for several hours.
At least one left-leaning website, Occupy Democrats, was also affected.
Legacy media outlets — including The New York Times and Washington Post — did not appear to be harmed.
Dr. Robert Epstein, a researcher who has argued Google has the power to sway up to 10 per cent of American voters in the 2020 election, agreed with Wacker.
‘It’s likely that a person or algorithm at Google added ‘breitbart.com’ and other URLs to one or more of the company’s blacklists,’ Epstein told Mediate.
‘Then, perhaps after some pushback, someone pulled those URLs off the blacklists.’
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, in December 2018 told a House committee the company did not ‘manually intervene on any search result.’
Google said in a statement published on Twitter that it was looking into the issue.
‘We are aware of an issue with the site: command that may fail to show some or any indexed pages from a website,’ the company.
‘We are investigating this and any potentially related issues.’
In response to an inquiry from Mediaite, a spokesman for Google added: ‘This issue affected a number of sites representing a range of different content and viewpoints.
‘This issue was a technical error unrelated to the content or ideology of the sites affected.’
Wacker said the list may have been manually created, or it may have been the product of an algorithm.
That algorithm could have been created by a human, or it could also have been created by an AI that found something about the affected websites so offensive — such as the way users share their content, or the keywords used by those sites — that it blocked them.
‘One possibility is that sites on this blacklist are being penalized, and the glitch was that the penalty was accidentally set so high that these sites were effectively removed from Google search,’ Wacker told Mediate.
”I’ve found that a lot of people tend to conflate algorithms with AI since they’re both automated, but AI isn’t as objective and mechanical as algorithms are.’
In 2019, the right-leaning Project Veritas released internal Google documents from a former employee suggested the website was seeking to rank websites according to ‘quality.’
One example document used by company employees showed Fox News ranking below CNN and MSNBC.
State-backed Russia Today fell slightly lower on the list, but well above Breitbart.