Google/YouTube Rigged News and Video Results

August 15th, 2019 10:52 AM

Project Veritas dropped a massive 950-page leak from Google whistleblower Zachary Vorhies that showed how the company allegedly manipulates search results. Among the topics Google/YouTube manipulated were pro-life advocacy, questioning various terror attacks, and several political organizations including the Heritage Foundation.

The August 14 leak also explained how the “Twiddler” system lets Google/YouTube workers rank search results based upon what the companies want emphasized or de-emphasized. Most people using Google or Youtube statistically go to the first few results that pop up when they search for a topic.

Twiddler makes use of a list of keywords called the “YouTube Controversial Query Blacklist.” This list of flagged keywords will cause a video to be reviewed as for whether it should be promoted to the first page of search results, demoted, or possibly removed entirely.

The Twiddler Quick Start Guide explains to Google employees how to rank results such as how to “demote a result to the second page” and so on, or even hide them altogether.

The “YouTube Controversial Query Blacklist” involves many newsworthy terms, especially around pro-life debates, shooting controversies, and many others. Numerous pages were dominated by search keywords questioning the still murky story of the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history. 

The list also highlighted various political organizations as worthy of artificial promotion or de-boosting. The list included conservative organizations possibly flagged for deboosting such as the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the Irish pro-life Iona Institute.

Also flagged were liberal groups including  the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

This list is not sorted according to what Googlers may want boosted to the front page versus demoted to later pages, where it is less likely to be read. It includes  instructions in the guide to tell employees how to do both. A liberal employee might have the power to boost something by the ADL while demoting something by the Heritage Foundation, both of which are included in this query list.

The manipulation of the Heritage Foundation is an interesting move because Google scrapped its AI ethics board over the inclusion of Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James, after outcry from liberal employees. 

The inclusion of an Irish pro-life organization may seem random until one considers a substantial portion of this list was devoted to terms related to the recent referendum on abortion in Ireland. There have been recent protests held outside of Google’s Irish headquarters over deplatforming, and this revelation may add fuel to the fire.

As Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe tweeted, “Newly leaked @YouTube docs show Irish ‘8th amendment,’ ‘pro-life,’ ‘irish catholic’ in ‘youtube controversial query blacklist,’ which appear to show YouTube injecting itself into global political events.”

Part of what makes this rigging system so dangerous is that according to a recent study covered by Common Sense Media, “more than half of teens (54%) get news at least a few times a week from social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and 50% get news from YouTube.”

YouTube recommendations drive this news consumption. The article noted, “Among all teens who get their news from YouTube—regardless of how often—exactly half (50%) say they most often find news on YouTube because it was recommended by YouTube itself.”

Chief research officer at SurveyMonkey Jon Cohen observed that, "It's a bit of a paradox: Overwhelmingly teens say they are interested in keeping up with the news, but they're not seeking out either traditional or new media to do so."

When reached for comment by NewsBusters TechWatch, Google leaker Vorhies claimed that “Google is willfully committing violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act by leveraging their monopoly to grossly suppress information of a political nature in order to unduly influence. elections.” The example he cited was how Google has been accused of censoring Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) campaign in the critical hours after her first Democratic primary debate. Gabbard has responded by launching a $50 million lawsuit against Google.