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Thursday, March 24, 2005

National Vanguard Removed

Google removed anti-semitic, racist news source National Vanguard* from its Google News. Searching for it returns no results anymore. The German National-Zeitung in the meantime is still available in Google News Germany. (Google Germany is contemplating removing it.) quotes Google spokesman Steven Langdon: “Google News does not allow hate content. If we are made aware of articles that contain hate content, we will remove them.”

National Vanguard, in the meantime, have also heard about their exclusion: “Some defiant soul at Google added us to its news index (whose content is not determined by robot). Predictably, the usual enemies of balanced discourse made their phone calls. Will such calls pack much punch in another five years?” They linked here under the headline “Bloggers joined in the outcry”, which I believe can be seen by the shift in the opinions voiced in the forum.

*See previous post on National Vanguard, and the quote “parasitic Jew Gilbert Lederman (...) exploited the dying man with the kind of gall that only a Jew could muster.”

Free speech?

Is this a free speech issue? No, it’s not. Free speech is about being allowed to say something. Free speech does not mean others are forced to strengthen one’s voice by passing it on. There is no active censorship in Google News, there is only active acceptance of news sources (as opposed to individual articles, which are displayed automatically, human editors must initially pick the news source).

Richard T. Kaplar, vice president of The Media Institute, in InternetNews says: “Google is making an editorial decision on who it carries and who it doesn’t. News organizations have editorial discretion over what they run and don’t run. No one can force them to run something if they don’t feel like it.”

This is a major difference to Google web search; here, sources are picked up automatically, and only then can be removed manually (e.g. by removing specific hate sites for German Google). Sometimes, sources are also banned in automated ways (e.g. link farms intended to increase Google PageRank).

But does the exclusion of hate-sites lower the strength of Google News to give a variety of different news sources? Yes, it does. The more radical a site, the more it contrasts mainstream news. (Radical in itself of course is no benefit on its own, or else Google would fare best by including news sources which would intentionally lie about every news event.) It’s the decision of Google whether or not they think this exclusion is a price they have to pay, because it’s their web space.

Human editors

In the end, it comes down to a human editor at the Googleplex making a choice of what to carry to strike a balance between too radical views and too narrow views. It also comes down to what people at large deem acceptable (a lot recently complained). I stayed out of the discussion so far in terms of evaluating whether or not National Vanguard should better stay in Google News, though I did believe Google’s particular choice here was newsworthy.

In general, I think people should see whatever they want; in that sense, web search is pure pull. Google News on the other hand is push (at least when you go to the front-page without searching); you don’t necessarily want to see everything that’s presented to you on their front-page. You rely on Google’s selection (Google News only displays a small selection of what’s available on the web)... and you rely on Google making sound choices when it comes to included sources.

As a side-note, exclusion (or the lack of inclusion) must not be just for hate-sites. It may also be reasonable for prank sites (Google sometimes includes fake, humorous articles); irrelevant sites; sites which never get updated; sites which are in the wrong language; sites which need you to pay to see the article (Google includes to many of those); sites which are personal only (while Google lately includes blogs as news sources, I don’t think they’d include a personal diary style blog). It’s Google’s choice of selection, but too many bad choices will turn people away.


What can be said however is that in both cases – the manual inclusion in Google News, as well as the manual exclusion in Google web search – Google would fare better making its choices transparent. For this Google Inc. would need to provide a list of all accepted Google News sources, as well as a list of all banned web searches. Transparency is Web 2.0 – Google is still in Beta here.


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