After six days of being blacklisted by Google, the NaturalNews.com website has been restored to Google’s search results. The action by Google follows the largest and most vocal backlash against Google’s de-listing of any website in the history of the company, and it has sparked many new discussions and debates about search engines, censorship and free speech.
All of us at Natural News — as well as our many millions of fans — are grateful for Google’s decision to restore the NaturalNews.com website, but we are also deeply troubled by the unjustified blacklisting of Natural News and what it means for free speech across the ‘net.
For the record, there was never any allegation or evidence that Natural News had intentionally violated Google’s webmaster guidelines. While Google said we were being flagged for a so-called “sneaky mobile redirect” on a very small number of pages in a subdomain (blogs.naturalnews.com) which were created by outside bloggers, Google went to the extraordinary step of banning the entire NaturalNews.com root domain and all its subdomains — a step that would never have been applied to CNN, Huffington Post or other popular news websites. In fact, a Natural News investigation showed that violations identified involving websites like HuffPo, Forbes and CNN did not result in the same kind of blacklisting that was applied to Natural News.
Furthermore, while Google did make an effort to provide us with one URL that they said flagged this mobile redirect, to date there hasn’t been a single SEO expert or engineer who could reproduce the supposed redirect issue.
Even more disturbingly, when we went to the Google product webmaster forum to ask for help identifying this issue, we were insulted, mocked and accused of lying by Google’s supporters who behaved like a pack of jackals rather than search engine professionals.
No evidence, no charges but you’re “guilty” because they say you are
Through this entire process, Natural News was constantly being called a liar for failing to remove something that Google flatly refused to identify. In essence, we were charged with a “crime” by Google, yet Google refused to provide any details of the crime, nor any evidence of the crime, nor any tool whereby we could reproduce Google’s claimed “redirect.”
To call this process extremely frustrating for webmasters is an understatement. I continue to believe that Natural News was targeted by Google due to the content of our speech which supports President Trump… and that the “sneaky mobile redirects” issue was merely the justification used by Google to de-list the entire NaturalNews.com website. Google no doubt disagrees with this assessment and says it was just a technical issue, yet we are not aware of any other situation in which a minor technical issue on a subdomain resulted in Google blacklisting the entire ROOT domain of a major publisher, with 140,000+ pages of quality content. Natural News appears to be the only website of its size that has ever been subjected to this extreme censorship for such a minor technical issue on pages posted years ago by bloggers on a subdomain.
Also for the record, there is absolutely no evidence or even any accusation of Natural News deliberately engaging in any “black hat” SEO techniques, or malicious linking strategies, or any other tricks that might be used by unscrupulous internet spammers. Natural News focuses on quality content and well-constructed titles, leaving the ranking algorithms up to Google. While our content is obviously controversial — telling the truth is always a revolutionary act in an era of great deceit — it is of great interest to millions of readers and produced with the intention of helping humanity. See our list of 10 timeless principles that drive the Natural News mission.
The power to censor is the power to destroy
Because Google is such an integral part of the internet ecosystem, with its dominant influence determining website traffic, e-commerce product sales and online reputations, Google’s power to censor is the power to destroy.
At the flick of a switch, Google can destroy an entire family business… the business model of an online store… or the reputation of a truly good person.
There are many who argue at this very moment that Google is a private company and can therefore “do whatever it wants” without justifying anything. In arguing for this, they are supporting a totalitarian monopoly by a search engine that has the power to destroy without cause or justification.
Yet we live in a society where the entire media and popular culture was outraged when a bakery in Oregon said it would not bake a cake for a lesbian couple. The media uproar demanded the bakery be vilified for refusing to provide services to that customer, and it was later fined $135,000 by the state of Oregon for causing “emotional damage” to the plaintiffs.
Clearly, in that case, society said the bakery did not have the right to blacklist a lesbian couple, yet many of the same Leftists who decried the Oregon bakery are now saying Google has the right to blacklist Natural News. Is that only allowable in their minds because I’m not gay? What if Natural News had been run by a transgender? The outrage against Google across the LGBT community if Google had blacklisted a popular LGBT news website would be deafening.
Indeed, I believe Google proceeded with blacklisting Natural News precisely because I’m not gay, I’m not transgender and I’m not a liberal. We were discriminated against, I believe, because we are not part of the “protected” classes of citizens in the progressive worldview where Google operates. No one denies, for example, that Google’s top executives such as Eric Schmidt were working directly with the Hillary Clinton campaign which Natural News opposed. This has all been fully documented by Wikileaks.
Had Natural News been a pro-Clinton, “progressive” website, I believe a minor technical glitch on some subdomain blog pages from years ago would have been given a pass. After all, the final decision to blacklist Google was a human decision — called a “Manual Action” by Google — which means someone at Google decided to penalize Natural News for something that was not flagged by any Google algorithm.
The need to regulate Google, Facebook, Twitter and other internet giants
Given the monopoly position of Google in the marketplace, Google must be prevented from granting special protections to certain “progressive” websites (such as the Huffington Post) while targeting “conservative” websites for extreme punitive action. (Natural News is not strictly conservative, but we do support President Trump. However, we are also pro-environmental protection and even announced a donation of lab services to Native American communities to test their water for possible contamination by oil pipeline leaks and spills.)
Specifically, a process must be put in place where Google is required to produce the evidence they claim to have against a website and provide at minimum three working days for webmasters to resolve the named issues.
Google has an obligation to tell websites why they are about to be blacklisted and provide a reasonable means of recourse so that webmasters can take steps to comply with Google’s ever-changing, mysterious “black box” rules.
Furthermore, Google must be required to apply its relevancy algorithms fairly, across all sites, without singling out certain publishers for special penalties decided by biased humans who simply disagree with the content of a particular site.
I believe that, given Google’s monopoly position of dominance over the internet ecosystem, it’s time for Congress to pass a law that would apply these bare minimum regulations to Google operations to prevent politically motivated censorship. Call it the “Online Speech Protection Act.” It would not prevent Google from blacklisting websites that truly abuse dark hat SEO tactics, but it would require that Google provide advanced notice, produce the evidence against the site, and provide a reasonable means by which webmasters could resolve the issues in question, especially for those website that are obviously attempting to comply with Google’s rules (which even SEO experts admit are almost impossible to navigate).
How Google enables HATE speech against the very websites it is censoring
As Natural News was being censored by Google, we were also being assaulted and called liars by the same left-wing media that routinely attacks Donald Trump. By censoring Natural News, Google empowered a massive wave of defamation articles that deliberately sought to exploit the absence of Natural News in the rankings to spread knowingly false lies and hatred about Natural News and myself in particular.
In essence, Google just enabled one of the most vile hate campaigns ever witnessed on the ‘net, all while denying Natural News any ability to defend itself against such hate-based smears and malicious lies. It is the electronic equivalent of binding your hands, slapping duct tape over your mouth, and throwing you to the lions. All this from a company that once claimed to “do no evil.”
In effect, Google censored us, then allowed others to smear us, then hosted a webmaster forum which attacked us and called us liars, then refused to provide us with any evidence of wrongdoing, all while silencing our ability to defend ourselves in the public space.
There’s no question in my mind that none of this would have ever happened if Natural News had been a Clinton-supporting website. There’s no question in my mind that Natural News was discriminated against because we were a convenient political target that could be silenced as part of an elaborate smear campaign to drag our reputation through the mud, scare away future visitors and harm our revenue-generating traffic as a form of economic sabotage.
The conclusion here is that Google has now become a weaponized search engine of censorship and hate, deployed by politically biased operators who are so filled with anger at Trump’s victory that they justify blacklisting entire website they don’t like. Remember, today’s “progressive” Left is even filled with students (UC Berkeley) who now openly argue for their “right” to murder people whose speech they don’t like. Is there any doubt that some of these young, intolerant Leftists work inside Google right now, using their power of censorship to silence the websites they hate? How are we to trust Google to make sure the power to blacklist websites is not abused inside Google itself?
Sadly today, much of the political Left has become a hate group. As a hate group, they truly believe they alone have the unique right to censor others, to defame others, even to violently attack and murder others whose speech they don’t like. This is now evident everywhere throughout Leftist culture, including in Hollywood and the Oscars. With Google clearly being run by Leftists, and Facebook run by Leftists, and most of the internet gatekeepers dominated by intolerant Leftists, the shocking realization is that none of us are safe from the hatred, intolerance and censorship of the techno-liberals who tell themselves “the ends justify the means” to silence Trump supporters and defame those who support Trump.
First they came for me… will Google come for YOU next?
Truly, this is a sad era for America, a sad era for the internet and a sad realization of what Google has come to because Google has not taken any action to state they won’t repeat the same censorship again at any time, without notice.
What Google asserts right now, to all websites, is that we are all at the mercy of Google, the new “Ministry of Truth,” which can condemn you without explanation, silence you without producing a shred of evidence, and arrange for you to be slandered and defamed without recourse.
While Natural News had a large enough audience to initiate a widespread backlash of outrage against Google, the sad truth is that most websites are too small to mount any sort of effective defense against the Ministry of Google. When the small (but important) voices are silenced by Google for political reasons, who will speak for them?
Who will speak up for the minority voices that are all part of the diversity of public debate and dialogue in a free society? Google asserts that it has the right to blacklist any site at any time for any reason without explanation… and that it can all be decided by a human being at Google, a left-leaning organization that no doubt employs a large number of intolerant, biased Leftists who despise free speech while actively seeking to silence those with whom they disagree.
Is this really acceptable in a free society? Do website now have to calculate their odds of being de-listed by Google with every new article they publish that doesn’t celebrate the twisted narratives of the political Left?
What guarantees do any of us have that Google won’t target us on any given day, for whatever reason of their choosing, and silence us forever?
As currently run, Google is a danger to free expression and an enabler of hate speech. Its actions smack of the kind of totalitarian rule we’ve seen before throughout history under cruel, genocidal rulers like Mao and Stalin. When speech is selectively suppressed by a monopolistic, politically-connected entity that sees itself as the sole arbiter of what speech is “allowable” in society, we are already on the path toward info-totalitarianism… and the outcome can only be less freedom and more human suffering, as history has proven again and again, without fail.
This must change. Google must be subjected to reasonable regulations that protect the rights of citizens to engage in free speech in a free society. We must not let Google march us down the path of totalitarianism and the silencing of dissent.
Let us hope that Congress will pursue reasonable regulations against Google, Facebook and Twitter that will rein in their monopolistic practices and discriminatory censorship that harms America and suppresses human freedom around the globe.
We’ve launched a new site to cover censorship on the internet. Visit Censorship.news to stay informed.