Google De-Lists Natural News, and Mike Adams goes full Conspiracy
Last night I began seeing reports, both on Facebook and several skeptical blogs, that Google had de-listed naturalnews.com from its search engine results. As a good skeptic, I didn’t share any of those links because I wanted to evaluate them and make sure it was true. After all, Natural News may be a wretched hive of
scum and villainy pseudoscience, but it is a huge website and Google de-listing it would be a huge step.
It looks like this is accurate. I’m seeing reports from various reputable news sources, as well as Natural News itself, that indicate that the entire page has been removed from Google. In addition, I searched pretty hard for some popular articles from Natural News and found nothing. I even went about 10 pages deep in Google’s search results. A check on Bing for “monsanto conspirators” will give Natural News as the number 3 result, on Google the same article is nowhere to be found within the first 10 pages of Google’s search results, at least as of 6:19 AM PST.
What does this all mean?
Did Google take Natural News of the internet? No. You can still find them at naturalnews.com. You can also find them via google if you search for them directly, although even that is pretty difficult. It means simply that if you search for something, anything really but most likely some anti-GMO, antivax, anti-fluoridation woo, Natural News will not be one of this results.
When you build a website one of the things you have to do is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google have robots that will crawl over every inch of your website (which is why they’re called crawlers). To facilitate this, SEO will add things like page summaries, keywords, and other data that Google will record. The benefit is that Google can more easily index, or store all of your website’s data, on its servers and thereby your website is more likely to show up in search results, based on the content of your website and the SEO you set.
It seems that, as of last night, Google has removed all of Natural News from its search results. We don’t know eexactly why Google did this, and their policy is not to icomment on individual actiond, but this may just be a response to specific behaviors on Natural News’ mobile site like redirects. As Gizmodo put it:
It seems more likely that Google is just responding to technical violations of its terms rather than any political agenda. One glaring violation? The mobile version of the site performs redirects prohibited by Google’s terms of service.
Mike Adams, the owner of Natural News, did not respond well to this event:
Late last week, I received a direct threat that warned if I did not take steps to destroy Alex Jones and InfoWars, I would be targeted for destruction in a campaign of smears, censorship and defamation.
Instead of giving in to the enemy, I refused to take the bait and went public with details of the threat, warning everyone in the new media that sinister forces were now being pursued to undermine and silence every anti-establishment (and pro-Trump) voice on the internet.
True to form, today the entire Natural News website has been blacklisted by Google, entirely without warning. This is just one of many censorship events that have all taken place over the last few days:
Mike Adams is a conspiracy theorist of the highest order. He hasn’t met a conspiracy theory that he didn’t like. I’m going to try to piece together what most likely happened, but because the two entities involved are being tight lipped (Google) or are completely untrustworthy (Natural News) there’s going to be quite a bit of conjecture.
On February 16, in a post entitled BREAKING: Health Ranger threatened by left-wing media goons: “Destroy Alex Jones or we will destroy YOU”, Mike Adams proposed a conspiracy in which Left Wing News Organizations are creating an organized, systematic attempt to silence the Right Wing (Adams is extremely pro-Trump) by any means necessary. Adams purports to have received a physical thumb drive with threats by some
manipulative “media spooks” who are obviously very well funded but incredibly misinformed.
Adams also claims that anything that discredits him is “Fake News”, a term that was very quickly hijacked by cranks just as the term “skeptic” has been by anti-vaxxers.
No more mention of this was made (other than Adams’ podcast published on the same day) until yesterday. Two posts, the one quoted above and this one, detail Adams’ view on the matter. Essentially, he and his friend Alex Jones over at Info Wars, are subject to a vast conspiracy to silence anyone pro-Trump and support anyone anti-Trump. This image, from the blog posts, describes Adams’ thinking perfectly:
Essentially, anything that doesn’t agree with Adams is Fake News. Sadly, the term Fake News is being used by both sides so often that the term is essentially meaningless.
Did Google do the Right Thing?
We don’t know why Google de-listed Natural News, and to be perfectly honest it seems more likely that this was in response to actual violations of Google’s policy regarding the behavior of the website (see above) rather than the nefarious content of Natural News.
Natural News is a purveyor of all sorts of fake (and dangerous) nonsense. And Google is a private company and well within its rights (legally speaking) to de-list any website it wants. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Google removing a website because it found their content objectionable (even if the content is demonstrably false).
What troubles me is that I see this as a slippery slope. I don’t like slippery slope arguments, they’re almost always fallacious and facile, and there’s no evidence that this will happen to any other websites (although Food Babe would be a good candidate). But when Google, or someone else, decides what information people will see, this is just silencing the opposition. I would rather Google put a disclaimer in their search results, for example indicating that this website peddles in Fake News.
Other bloggers seem to have the same mixed feelings. Steven Novella wrote:
There is also the slippery slope argument. If Google uses their own assessment of quality to delist entire domains from their organic searches, ideological bias can slip into their quality assessments. Some would rather deal with low quality sites coming up in their searches rather than have Google scrub the searches for them, and therefore be subject to the ideological biases of a private company not subject to any oversight.
While I might agree with their decision regarding Natural News, I might not agree with decisions they make in the future. The company itself might be subject to a take-over by someone with an ideological agenda.
Of course this is all conjecture, and it is more likely Natural News actually violated Google’s policies. If that is the case Google would typically re-lisy Natural News once the website is fixed. If this is the case, I’m sure Mike Adams will claim some sort of victory against the global elite.
Still, I’ll take this as a win, for now, and see how things go from here.