The free and open Internet is neither so free nor so open as we like to believe, and decreasingly so as time progresses but there have been some very worrying moves towards censoring alternative media recently that should you should be aware of.
We are seeing a concerted effort to such down free speech on the Internet, under the name of "fake news", "Russian propaganda", etc. Just this past week, after the Las Vegas Shooting attack, YouTube (owned by Alphabet Inc. [Google]) reportedly updated its search engine algorithms in an effort to diminish the reach of conspiracy videos and promote more authoritative videos, and ultimately censor political content.
A Global Fight Against Internet Censorship
The Relationship Between Google and Intelligence Agencies
Ever since Edward Snowden blew the lid off the extensive Internet data collection and spying efforts of the National Security Agency (NSA), Google has claimed that they never willingly participated in the surveillance program nor did it share its servers with the NSA.
However, a series of emails exchanged between NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt have been revealed. The emails are from 2011 and 2012, before Snowden revealed the NSA's secrets in June 2013. Alexander's emails hint at the importance of "Google's participation in refinement, engineering and deployment of solutions," to cyber threats.
Congress Passes Bill Approving Deceptive Domestic Propaganda
The amendment, known as the “Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012”, was tagged on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 would allow for the United States government to create and distribute pro-American propaganda within the country’s own borders.
As per the bill, "The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are authorized to use funds appropriated or otherwise made available for public diplomacy information programs to provide for the preparation, dissemination, and use of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, the Internet, and other information media, including social media, and through information centers, instructors, and other direct or indirect means of communication."
The original Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was developed to counter communism during the Cold War, although it is outdated for the conflicts of today.
Congress Passes Bill Targeting "Propaganda" Websites
On November 30, 2016 one week after the Washington Post launched its witch hunt against "Russian propaganda fake news", with 390 votes for, the House quietly passed "H.R. 6393, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017", sponsored by California Republican Devin Nunes (whose third largest donor in 2016 is Google parent Alphabet, Inc), a bill which deals with a number of intelligence-related issues, including Russian propaganda, or what the government calls propaganda, and hints at a potential crackdown on "offenders."
A quick skim of the bill reveals "Title V—Matters relating to foreign countries", whose Section 501 calls for the government to "counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence … carried out in coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation and the role of the Russian Federation has been hidden or not acknowledged publicly.”
The section lists the following definitions of media manipulation:
This law could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called “fake news” websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media's proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration.
Solutions: Boycott Google
Here are the links to the search alternatives mentioned:
Congress.gov. (2012). H.R.5736 - Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. [online] Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/5736/text [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Durdin, Tyler. (2016) House quietly passes bill targeting "Russian propaganda" websites. [online] Available at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-02/house-quietly-passes-bill-targeting-russian-propaganda-websites [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017]
Govtrack. (2016). H.R. 6393 (114th): Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. [online] Available at: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr6393/text [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Lamarque, Kevin. (2012). NDAA 2013: Congress approves domestic deceptive propaganda. [online] Available at: https://www.rt.com/usa/propaganda-us-smith-amendment-903/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Levin, Sam. (2017). YouTube alters search algorithm over fake Las Vegas conspiracy videos. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/06/youtube-alters-search-algorithm-over-fake-las-vegas-conspiracy-videos [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
A former Facebook executive said Thursday Facebook and Google act as "surveillance states" because of the vast amount of data they have on users.
"Amazon is a microscopic portion of global consumption today, so ultimately I think it has more room to grow before it invites regulatory overview," Palihapitiya said. "On the other hand, Facebook and Google effectively are surveillance states. And they have so much personal, private information about so many citizens of so many countries."
Palihapitiya worked at Facebook from 2005-2011, and has worked as a venture capitalist since.
He referenced Google having to deal with European regulators and being fined for breaching antitrust rules, saying, "It's already beginning. Because it's part and parcel to them realizing that there's too much power unbounded."
CNBC. (2017). Chamath Palihapitiya: Facebook and Google have become 'surveillance states'. [online] Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2017/09/14/chamath-palihapitiya-facebook-and-google-have-become-surveillance-states.html [Accessed 16 Sep. 2017].
Devaney, J. (2017). Former Facebook Exec: Facebook, Google Are 'Surveillance States'. [online] Newsmax. Available at: https://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/facebook-google-surveillance-states-chamath-palihapitiya/2017/09/14/id/813702/ [Accessed 16 Sep. 2017].
The Pentagon Highlands Forum’s co-optation of tech giants like Google to pursue mass surveillance, has played a key role in secret efforts to manipulate the media as part of an information war against the American government, the American people, and the rest of the world: to justify endless war, and ceaseless military expansionism.
Colluded Against the American People
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has made efforts to influence the American political discourse (not to mention presidential election outcome), which extends far beyond the company’s penchant for subtly disadvantaging independent and conservative thinkers on platforms like YouTube. By financially supporting left-leaning policy shops, Google’s parent company has helped raise a liberal army intent on hashing out policy minutiae to help bend US policy to their benefactors’ advantage.
Barry Lynn, formerly a top researcher at New America, learned that lesson the hard way after publishing a paper praising European Union antitrust regulators for fining Google nearly $3 billion for purportedly rigging its search algorithm to favor its own services over its rivals.
Google spent more than $9.5 million on lobbying during the first half of 2017, more than almost any other company. It has helped organize conferences at which key regulators overseeing investigations into the company were presented with pro-Google arguments, sometimes without disclosure of Google’s role in funding NA, according to the NYT.
The company has also donated to more than 170 groups from across the political spectrum, according to voluntary disclosures on its website.
Seeking to Censor Information
Google's 160-page handbook tells us all exactly how they plan to spoon feed us only “their” news. The lengthy handbook is a heavy read for the average person, but the book does lay out an Orwellian machination. Pay close attention to the “instructional” on page 108 where Google dictates who does and does not meet rating criteria. The section under Fails to Meet (FailsM) is a steamrolling of the free press, and suggested hiding certain kinds of sites:
“Pages that directly contradict well established historical facts (e.g., unsubstantiated conspiracy theories), unless the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”
Google has obscured its real intentions with the idea that their algorithms are “filtering” or “learning” results to help your life be better. Once again Google supposes to do “what is good for the public” by destroying some sources and propping up others. Using terms like “search quality rating guidelines” and “page quality rating guidelines” at Google provide justification for controlling what you see and read on the web. Censorship and monopolization of internet information and business.
Also contained within the handbook is a section describing how Google will rank the best of the best news sites entitled “A High Level of Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness (EAT)”. The acronym alone should clue you that Google search users are about to be fed the "truth". “High Quality Pages” for the Google oligarchs means that either the page owner pays Google through the mouth, or that the site in question serves Google’s masters well – period. At the top of this matrix of sources are newspapers (High News 1) like The Washington Post and New York Times, followed by the articles within those pages (High News 2). On down the list of authority pages are government sites like the US State Department and White House. So, Google has factored out the importance of truth or even the importance of the news story itself, in favor of “who” wrote the story and the “reality” Google wants you to accept.
Search Results Shape People's Opinions
Researchers have observed that Internet search rankings have a significant impact on consumer attitudes, preferences, and behaviors, mainly because users trust and choose higher-ranked results more than lower-ranked results, even though users generally have
no idea how results get ranked. This phenomena, dubbed the "search engine manipulation effect" (SEME), is presumably why North American companies now spend more than 20 billion US dollars annually on efforts to place results at the top of rankings. Studies using eye-tracking technology have shown that people generally scan search engine results in the order in which the results appear and then fixate on the results that rank highest, even when lower-ranked results are more relevant to their search. Higher-ranked links also draw more clicks, and consequently people spend more time on Web pages associated with higher-ranked search results. A recent analysis of ∼300 million clicks on one search engine found that 91.5% of those clicks were on the first page of search results, with 32.5% on the first result and 17.6% on the second. The study also reported that the bottom item on the first page of results drew 140% more clicks than the first item on the second page.
Given the apparent power of search rankings, researchers sought out to determine whether search results could be manipulated to alter the preferences of undecided voters in democratic elections, since it is already well established that biased media sources such as newspapers, political polls, and television sway voters. Using a double-blind, randomized controlled experimental method, the results of these experiments demonstrate that:
Search engine companies are currently unregulated and these results could be viewed as a cause for concern, suggesting that such companies could affect — and perhaps are already affecting — the outcomes of close elections worldwide. Such manipulations are difficult to detect, and most people are relatively powerless when trying to resist sources of influence they cannot see. Of greater concern in the present context, when people are unaware they are being manipulated, they tend to believe they have adopted their new thinking voluntarily. Thus, unregulated election-related search rankings could pose a significant threat to the democratic system of government.
Start making the transition away from companies like Google and Facebook now. Begin using alternative search engines, such as:
Butler, P. (2017). We Told You So: Google Is NSA | New Eastern Outlook. [online] Journal-neo.org. Available at: https://journal-neo.org/2017/09/04/we-told-you-so-google-is-nsa/ [Accessed 10 Sep. 2017].
Epstein, R. and Robertson, R. (2015). The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its possible impact on the outcomes of elections. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(33), pp.E4512-E4521. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1419828112
Google. (2017). General Guidelines. [online] Available at: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//insidesearch/howsearchworks/assets/searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf [Accessed 10 Sep. 2017].
Ahmed, N. (2017). How the CIA made Google – INSURGE intelligence – Medium. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e [Accessed 10 Sep. 2017].
The purpose of providing this information is to identify and increase awareness of world issues, in an effort to create a better world.