Censored by Google: September 7, 2017 article on Christopher Steel dossier, and many more

UPDATE October 25, 2017

The Trenchant Observer has a serious problem, and it is not clear how it might be solved.

The problem is that Google seems to be censoring the display of search results, without informing The Observer of any reason for doing so. The Observer is not an SEO expert, and doesn’t have the resources or the inclination to hire a fancy SEO expert to decipher Google’s mysterious algorithms.

Rather, the Observer believes that Google and other search engines should be required by law to display unfiltered results that are responsive to the search terms entered by the user, particularly when the subject matter is related to political or other controversies.

Obviously thee is a role for some filtering, e.g., of child pornography or of incitements to violence. However, search engines should not be in the business of filtering out serious long-form journalism written by anyone, regardless of the authority of the sites that link to their sites or blogs.

But there is also a risk that legitimate sites, like The Trenchant Observer, which are based on informed and serious analysis of facts substantiated by other legitimate and authoritative news sources, may be caught up in efforts to filter out “fake news”. Often, it seems, taking on controversial topics and expressing passionate opinions about what is going on in society and the world may trigger these algorithms, which may result in the suppression of important news and analysis, as has apparently occurred with the suppression of the the article below on the degree to which the Christopher Steele dossier has been corroborated.

One aspect of the challenge faced by the Trenchant Observer is that algorithms may at present be allowed to substitute for human judgment, particularly in disputed cases. There should exist easily found and utilized channels for appeal to a responsible Google official of any decision (whether machine or man-made) to not index or to filter search results out of results that are displayed to a user. Yet such channels either don’t exist, or are not easily found and utilized.

If Bing, Yahoo, Duck-Duck-Go, AOL, and other search engines can display these suppressed results, why can’t Google?

If instituting human review at some level of appeal would cost Google a lot of money, why shouldn’t it be required to spend this money as mitigation for its dominant market position, and indeed as part of the price it must pay for not being broken up. This is particularly important in Europe where antitrust or competition law still has vibrant force, and abuse of a dominant market position is a grave antitrust offense.

The matter becomes all the more serious when we consider the precarious nature of freedom of the press and the exercise of First Amendment rights in the age of the internet. Google and Facebook, through their dominant market positions and near monopoly in search and the dissemination of news and opinion, have the potential to become instruments of totalitarian control.

As students of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, such as Steve Bannon, and of many other revolutions know well, to seize control of a government and a society the most important steps are to 1) quickly acquire or maintain a monopoly on the use of force; and 2) seize control of key infrastructure points, none more important in the past that radio and television stations and broadcasting equipment, and newspapers and printing presses.

Now, however, the world has changed. In the age of the Internet, newspapers and newsletters, and other independent sources of news may in many ways be “seized” by cutting off their distribution through the Internet. A visit to an authoritarian country will quickly confirm the critical importance of control of the means of mass communications.

This week the Federal Communications Commission repealed a rule which has for decades required radio stations to have broadcast operations in the location where they broadcast. In the future, billionaires will be able to buy and build national networks which obliterate local news and analysis.

Let us connect the dots. Google has the power to block the display of search results, and to cripple the power of newspapers and journalists to coordinate their work and to draw on the reports of others. In fact, Google already performs this function in a number of authoritarian countries in which it operates.

Google is at present an unregulated private company in the United States, under no legal constraints to respect First Amendment rights or the free flow of information in the ways it organizes and conducts its search engines, or displays search results.

These considerations require urgent attention by legislators and others.

The Trenchant Observer

See

1) Robert Epstein, “The New Censorship: How did Google become the internet’s censor and master manipulator, blocking access to millions of websites?” U.S. News, June 22, 2016 (9:00 a.m.).

Robert Epstein (@DrREpstein) is Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California. A long-time professor and researcher, Dr. Epstein has published fifteen books on artificial intelligence and other topics and is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine.

***

Original article published on October 6, 2017

Google has in effect been censoring articles published on The Trenchant Observer.

The latest is “The Christopher Steele dossier on Trump’s collusion with Russia and subsequent corroboration,” September 7, 2017.

This article was submitted to Google for indexing on September 7, 2017. But somehow Google’s algorithms couldn’t find the article, or display the article in response to a specific search string.

Yahoo, Duck-Duck-Go, and Bing have found the article, and all of the hits are coming from them.

From Google: Zero.

Moreover, all of the articles published in the last few months have suffered more or less a similar fate, with no or almost no referrals from Google.com.

The power of Google and other search engines to control the dissemination of ideas and public debate is totalitarian in nature, and cries out for government regulation.

This is not a new matter.

See:

“Not indexed by Google, Again — Obama’s cold-blooded Realpolitik and the Iran deal,” The Trenchant Observer, August 5, 2015.

“Not indexed by Google — Censorship by another name: Obama and the Iran nuclear deal,” July 20, 2015

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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