Op-Ed: Why is Google censoring socialist websites?
Students today are living in a period unlike any in history, with unprecedented levels of inequality, escalating military violence and the looming threat of authoritarianism. The average student in the University of Michigan’s graduating class of 2018 will have lived their entire academic life — 17 years — with the United States at war in Afghanistan. The same student will leave college with an average of over $37,000 of debt. This generation of college students will have shorter lives, lower incomes and fewer opportunities than their parents and grandparents.
Under these conditions, it’s no surprise that the word “socialism” has become one of the most-searched words. Students are becoming increasingly hostile to the capitalist system and have turned to the internet to look for alternatives. But what will one find when searching the world’s most popular search engine, Google, for terms like “socialism,” “Marxism” or “anti-war movement?”
New data compiled by the world’s most widely-read socialist news publication, the “World Socialist Web Site,” proves that a significant decline in readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past six months has been caused by a cumulative 70-percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.
In other words, Google is censoring the internet. Their target? Left-wing organizations focusing on issues such as war, geopolitics, social inequality and working-class struggles. In addition to the WSWS — the most heavily-targeted site by the search algorithm change — sites such as Alternet, WikiLeaks, Consortium News and Truthout have also been affected.
A review of internet data has established that Google severed links between the WSWS and the 45 most popular search terms that previously directed readers to the site. 145 of the top 150 search terms that connected the WSWS with readers no longer do so.
Terms relating directly to socialism are the most heavily manipulated. The terms “socialism vs. capitalism,” “socialist healthcare” and “social class struggle,” which all returned WSWS articles on the first page in the past, now do not return the WSWS in the top 100 results. Searches of the terms “socialism,” “socialist,” “socialist movement” and “class conflict,” in which the WSWS previously appeared within the first four pages, no longer return any WSWS articles.
The decrease search results followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued April 25, Ben Gomes, Google vice president of search, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would suppress results from “offensive” sites, while surfacing more “authoritative content.”
In Google-speak, “authoritative” means “acceptable to the authorities.” The list of search terms blocked by Google, one of the most politically-connected companies, indicates what the leading figures in the political establishment do not want the public to find.
This massive effort to censor the internet proves what the political establishment fears, above all, is a movement of the working class and youth educated in genuine socialist politics.
In a period in which democratic rights are under fierce attack by the political establishment and the world stands on the brink of a major military conflict, the fight against corporate-state censorship of the internet must be taken up by widest sections of the working class and youth.
The International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Michigan will be holding a meeting to present the facts about Google’s attack, and lay out a plan for fighting censorship on Wednesday, Oct. 25th at 7 p.m. in Mason Hall, Room 2306.
The International Youth and Students for Social Equality is an organization dedicated to mobilizing young people in a fight against the capitalist system and for the socialist transformation of society.
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