by Andre Damon and Niles Niemuth
27 July 2017
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.
On April 25, 2017, Google announced that it had implemented changes
to its search service to make it harder for users to access what it
called "low-quality" information such as "conspiracy theories" and
The company said in a blog post that the central purpose of the
change to its search algorithm was to give the search
giant greater control in identifying content deemed objectionable by
It declared that it had,
evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates" in order "to
surface more authoritative content."
"Last month, we
updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more
detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to
These moderators are
instructed to flag,
experiences," including pages that present "conspiracy
theories," unless "the query clearly indicates the user is
seeking an alternative viewpoint."
Google does not explain
precisely what it means by the term "conspiracy theory."
Using the broad and
amorphous category of fake news, the aim of the change to Google's
search system is to restrict access to alternative web
sites, whose coverage and interpretation of events conflict with
those of such establishment media outlets as the New York Times
and the Washington Post.
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.
Referals from Google searches to the WSWS
fallen by about 70 percent
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
The average position of
articles in searches, meanwhile, fell from 15.9 to 37.2 over the
David North, chairperson of the International Editorial
Board of the WSWS, stated that Google is engaged in political
"The World Socialist
Web Site has been in existence for nearly 20 years," he said,
"and it has developed a large international audience. During
this past spring, the number of individual visits to the WSWS
each month exceeded 900,000."
"While a significant percentage of our readers enter the WSWS
directly, many web users access the site through search engines,
of which Google is the most widely used. There is no innocent
explanation for the extraordinarily sharp fall in readers,
virtually overnight, coming from Google searches."
"Google's claim that it is protecting readers from 'fake news'
is a politically motivated lie. Google, a massive monopoly, with
the closest ties to the state and intelligence agencies, is
blocking access to the WSWS and other left and progressive web
sites through a system of rigged searches."
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
Alexa analytics, other sites that
have experienced sharp drops in ranking include,
Even prominent democratic
rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union
and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.
A broad range of left-wing, progressive,
and anti-war sites have had their
traffic rankings fall in recent months
According to Google Trends, the term "fake news" roughly
quadrupled in popularity in early November, around the time of the
US election, as Democrats, establishment media outlets and
intelligence agencies sought to blame "false information" for
the electoral victory of Donald Trump over
On November 14, the New York Times proclaimed that
criticism over how fake news on their sites may have influenced
the presidential election's outcome," and they would be taking
measures to combat "fake news."
Ten days later, the
Washington Post published an article,
effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say,"
which cited an anonymous group known as
PropOrNot that compiled a list
of "fake news" sites spreading "Russian propaganda."
The list included several
sites categorized by the group as "left-wing."
globalresearch.ca, which often
reposts articles from the World Socialist Web Site.
After widespread criticism of what was little more than a blacklist
of anti-war and anti-establishment sites, the Washington Post
was forced to publish a retraction, declaring,
"The Post, which did
not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the
validity of PropOrNot's findings."
On April 7, Bloomberg
News reported that Google was working directly with the
Washington Post and the New York Times to "fact-check"
articles and eliminate "fake news."
This was followed by
Google's new search methodology.
Three months later, out of the 17 sites declared to be "fake news"
by the Washington Post's discredited blacklist, 14 had their global
The average decline of
the global reach of all of these sites is 25 percent, and some sites
saw their global reach fall by as much as 60 percent.
"The actions of
Google constitute political censorship and are a blatant attack
on free speech," North stated.
"At a time when
public distrust of establishment media is widespread, this
corporate giant is exploiting its monopolistic position to
restrict public access to a broad spectrum of news and critical