Blogs Agog Over Google News Censorship

Since NewsBusters first broke the story about Google News capriciously terminating its relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals, and followed (with the help of writer and software developer Marc Sheppard) with a detailed analysis of the ramifications of such unrestrained power, the blogosphere has been abuzz with this issue.

One of the key players in this sad tale, Frank Salvato of The New Media Journal, posted an interesting response to Google’s banishment at his website that included a list of competing search engines as well as his opinion on the issue: “Google News and Google Search Engine are on a campaign of political correctness that sees them denying access to their service to any website - be it news, opinion or a hybrid of both - that dares to address the subject of radical Islam.” Salvato continued:

“This sets a dangerous precedent. What will the next subject be that serves as a catalyst for Google to promote their unique brand of corporate censorship? Which website will be the next to have it's Internet presence diminished at the hands of Google's ‘progressive’ ideological agenda? WorldNetDaily? JihadWatch? NewsMax?”

Speaking of WorldNetDaily, its feature story on May 23 was entitled “Google Dumps News Sites That Criticize Radical Islam.” The piece added some valuable insights to the debate:

Last June, a conservative book publisher said Google rejected his ad for a book critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton while continuing to accept anti-Bush themes.

“Eric Jackson, CEO of World Ahead, said his ads for ‘Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine’ were rejected, without further explanation, due to ‘unacceptable content.’"

WND cited other examples of Google’s bias: “In May 2005, Google rejected an attempt by the conservative activist group to run ads critical of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while continuing to run attack ads against besieged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas." And: “In addition, the company came under fire for an editorial decision to rank news articles in search results by ‘quality,’ giving preferential placement to large and predominately liberal media outlets such as CNN and the BBC over conservative news sources, even if they are more recent or pertinent.”

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit cautioned on May 23: “Google would be wise to address this before they join Dell in the category of once-loved tech companies that forfeited customer trust.”

Little Green Footballs, which, as NewsBusters pointed out has had its own problems with Google, wrote on May 22: “I think the idea that Google News excludes conservative sites, while probably true, is only a small part of the problem. The real pattern is that the people who pick sites to be included in the index of Google News are biased against sites that are known for being critical of Islam.”

LGF punctuated its point by identifying an interesting hypocrisy: “They definitely do not purge sites from their news index for Islamic supremacism and jihad ideology much more virulent and hateful than you’ll find at any site mentioned in the Newsbusters article. Two quick examples: Hizballah’s Al-Manar.”

James Joyner of Outside the Beltway wrote on May 23 of his problems with Google:

“Then, suddenly, on January 7, OTB stopped being indexed. Unlike the above authors, I never received notification that my site was being removed, let alone an explanation. Indeed, several polite email inquiries went unanswered.”

Joyner in an update referred to Dan Riehl of Real World View. According to Riehl:

“RWV wasn't indexed by Google News, just by Google Web - as you can see here, they completely dropped me and all my archives from Google about a month ago.

“I can't even get an answer, they don't respond. And given the amount of traffic flow they direct over the Internet, I am seriously starting to wonder if any one company should have that much power over information flow without any responsibility to explain their reasoning behind including some sources while excluding others.”

David A. Utter at WebProNews wrote on May 22:

“Google News definitely appears to have made some kind of dramatic change to its selection algorithms around July 2005. Since that time, news sites with high PageRank scores routinely push lower rated sites off the Google News front page when an assortment of sites report on the same story.

”That's a noticeable contrast to previous iterations of Google News, which seem to have been much more even-handed in displaying small and large site stories on issues of the day.”

Yet, maybe the wisest insight came from Nathan Tabor at The Conservative Voice: “Google ALGORithms and AL GORE. The left-wing version of Internet symmetry?”

*****Update: Rusty Shackleford of The Jawa Report posted about this issue on March 23.  In it, he offered a ray of hope for those websites that have been banned from Google News: “Also, to be fair to Google, after an appeal from readers The Jawa Report was reinstated as a Google News source. We are currently a Google News source.” He continued:

“There does seem to be a pattern at Google News of bias against right-of-center websites. But, at least in our case, there was a corrective mechanism. Somebody at Google--perhaps some one higher up the editorial chain of command-- did some further research after hearing complaints and decided that the initial 'hate-speech' accusations were unfounded.”

For more information about this issue, please go here and here.

Censorship Online Media Google Journalistic Issues
Noel Sheppard's picture