[quote=USA Today article]On Tuesday they were handed a new one: to hunt for “Upsetting-Offensive” content such as hate or violence against a group of people, racial slurs or offensive terminology, graphic violence including animal cruelty or child abuse or explicit information about harmful activities such as human trafficking, according to guidelines posted by Google.
The goal: to steer people with queries such as “did the Holocaust happen” to trustworthy websites and not to websites that engage in falsehoods or hate speech.[/quote]
Well here we have it folks, if you were still looking for (more) reason to avoid using Google’s products, this is for you. They are in fact going to begin censoring the Google search based on political and other forms of opinions and speech, and they will employ a team of thought police to control the narrative.
This is serious stuff, and (perhaps naively) I didn’t quite think it would go this far. Google themselves are saying they will be applying this on political (and other) opinion sites that these 10,000 selected individuals deem to include not only “incorrect” statements but also “hate speech” and “offensive terminology” and “explicit information about harmful activities”. That is very loose language and applicable to a large amount of sites, strictly enforced such things can even be found in CDfreaks posts at times. So it seems they are giving themselves justification under this pretense to censor any site at their will (or at the will of these 10,000 Thinkpol members - can’t get more Orwellian). Now technically they won’t immediately censor results and they may not even end up completely removing the “flagged” sites, but really what’s the difference if they’re shoved to the 847th page of search results?
This is very reminiscent of another project that Google announced just last month, the Google Perspective which is an API that judges text based on its “toxicity” and is based on input data by a San Francisco market research company (Survata) who samples a “subpopulation” of presumably Californian leftists… no wonder then that the Perspective API was widely criticized for producing extremely left-leaning results of what’s “offensive”. Due to this existing precedent I have very little confidence in the abilities of Google’s newly hired thought police to rate the sites they analyze in a non-partisan manner, that is on top of the obvious human error component in all of this.
And of course they would frame this all in the pretext of the fight against child pornographers and holocaust deniers… And that’s exactly what the NSA was telling us - they need to violate the privacy of us all because there is small amount of people who may commit illegal/immoral acts. No matter the intentions that’s not how you serve justice and is against the law and the constitution. But since this isn’t the US government but rather a (very prominent) private corporation, the constitution or in this case the First Amendment obviously cannot help.
Perhaps if this was in fact aimed at the so-called “fake news” websites which to me as a cybersec specialist means sites that generate controversial articles purely to gain clicks and ad revenue then I would have a slightly milder opinion of this, as I usually do with this type of stuff. But the way they worded it, makes me very concerned because that is clearly not the case, as they left no ambiguity about their intentions to go after sites with informative rather than financial incentives (no matter what you think about the information, or lack thereof, that they provide).
So this is genuinely bad stuff guys, and I’ve not seen anything quite like this before. I’ve personally been considering moving away from Google’s search and certainly email due to the nonexistent privacy and the increase in captchas they throw (which by the way my not-that-old browser doesn’t support - so I can’t solve them!). But this really gives even more legitimate reason to go back to using a different search provider. The first search provider I used was AltaVista which I continued using from 1995 to 2003-2004 (along with the later-released Google, which at first wasn’t very good but quickly surpassed others). These days other companies have figure out how to make good web crawlers and therefore the quality is not really significantly worse than Google, and I would make the suggestion that any search engine that doesn’t censor results on questionable pretenses is of higher quality than one that does. Plus to me it would be a simple change in the JSON API that my script uses, so I could even keep using the exact same interface as I do now.
So, what do you think about this news? And are you going to be changing your personal search provider/habits based on this announcement, and if not why?