Google Attempts to Censor Conservatives Once Again
This article is a guest post by Mitchell Nemeth
Today’s world has been greatly improved by technological services provided by companies like Google – but with a cost. As Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The power in operating such an important tool is immense, as Google and its affiliates account for “roughly 90 percent of all Internet searches.”
Google’s services expand beyond search engines – they operate an expansive, online advertising regime. According to Wordstream, Google’s AdWords is the largest and most popular pay-per-click advertising platform. CNBC writes that Google’s advertising is critical to its business, making up about 84 percent of its Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) revenue. Any content creator or business owner understands the increasing power of online advertising. For example, let’s say you searched for Lucky Brand jeans on Google yesterday. The likelihood of you finding advertisements for Lucky Brand jeans on other Internet websites is very high. Why? Because Google has an incredibly large online presence.
All of this matters because of NBC News reporting on June 16th, 2020. NBC reported that Google banned the popular website ZeroHedge from its advertising platform and issued a warning to The Federalist over the comments section on certain articles. Google clarified “that The Federalist had been warned about policy violations but still had time to address them. It now has three days to remove the violations before a ban goes into effect.” Interestingly enough, Google’s Advertising Policies cover advertisements and “destinations that display shocking content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence.” Google is alleging that The Federalist’s “Comments” section violates its policy, but does Google apply this policy to other websites? Certainly anyone who reads a comments section on just about any news website views such “inappropriate content” as Google calls it.
Wait, wait – you want to treat the @FDRLST comment section, which they don’t curate, as THEIR speech but simultaneously say the content you directly host and modify IS NOT your speech under Section 230? Wow, this is getting really interesting https://t.co/QEtpCtssco
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 16, 2020
Being banned from using Google’s advertising tools is no laughing matter. To online publishers like The Federalist losing Google’s services leads to financial losses. Recently, McClatchy filed for bankruptcy exposing the difficulty in generating profitable, independent journalism. While journalism is undergoing a digital transformation, the threat of losing a large source of advertising can prove fatal.
In less politically polarized times, we would expect companies to apply policies evenhandedly and uniformly. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Combine the toxic political environment with seemingly unchecked monopolies like Google and the situation appears disastrous. Senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, Robert Epstein, suggested “that Google can shift millions of votes in the midterm elections with no one knowing they’re doing so and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.” Epstein notes that the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) and the Search Suggestion Effect (SSE) are among the most powerful influences ever. His research on SSE suggests that Google can flip ‘a 50/50 split among undecided voters into an astonishing 90/10 split.’”
As I wrote at Medium, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt supervised President Obama’s campaign tech operations in 2008 and 2012. The Obama White House’s relationship with Google frequently seemed more “like calls to the IT Help Desk.” Additionally, Schmidt sought to ensure Hillary Clinton had sufficient engineering talent to win the 2016 presidential election with a project called, The Groundwork. This project is symbolic of the “shrinking distance between Google and the Democratic Party.” As The Intercept points out, “no other public company approaches this degree of intimacy with government.”
All of this to say that Google’s control over search engine results and advertising is unimaginable. Every day Americans cannot allow for a seemingly monopolistic company to interfere into the political process or journalism. Journalism and politics go hand-in-hand. If Google censors conservative-leaning outlet at the request of the mainstream media then many voters will feel even more disenchanted with the process than before. This is why it is incumbent for the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into Google and other technology platforms for alleged violations of the Unfair or Deceptive Acts of Practices law, as suggested by President Trump under Executive Order 13925.