January 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Internet giant Google makes a common practice of manipulating search results to obscure YouTube searches for topics of interest to conservatives, according to leaked materials obtained by the conservative website Breitbart, and recently added pro-life searches to an internal “blacklist” in response to left-wing pressure.
On Wednesday, Breitbart reported that it was leaked a partial list of terms in a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” as well as an internal Google discussion thread on the subject. “We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate. Hopefully this isn't surprising or particularly controversial,” a Google site reliability engineer said in the chat.
The file named “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist” contains a list of YouTube search terms that Google manually curates. It has items such as “Strasbourg terrorist attack” and “florida shooting crisis actors,” which, it could be argued, are simply efforts to clamp down on established conspiracy theories, but also terms such as “abortion,” “Maxine Waters,” and items pertaining to the 2018 Irish abortion referendum.
Not all of this sat well with every chat participant, as one Google employee notes that abortion appears to have been added in response to a December 21 Slate writer moaning that “YouTube's Search Results for 'Abortion' Show Exactly What Anti-Abortion Activists Want Women to See.”
In particular, the article complains about the prominence of videos from pro-life commentator Ben Shapiro and Live Action videos featuring former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino.
Breitbart found that “Since the Slate journalist's inquiry and Google's subsequent intervention, the top search results now feature pro-abortion content from left-wing sources like BuzzFeed, Vice, CNN, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” LifeSiteNews's own YouTube search found similar results Thursday morning.
It “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists,” one employee admitted. “If you look at the other entries recently added to the youtube_controversial_query_blacklist(e.g., entries related to the Strasbourg terrorist attack), the addition of abortion seems…out-of-place,” a software engineer said.
In the chat, Google “trust & safety” team member Daniel Aaronson attempts to explain YouTube's practice as using “classifiers” to help provide “useful and rich results to our users while ignoring things at are not useful or not relevant,” particularly on “subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content.”
Nevertheless, the revelations appear to contradict Google CEO Sundar Pichai's sworn congressional testimony in December that his employees don't manipulate search results on Google platforms and that a “robust framework” is in place to prevent partisan abuse by rogue employees.
YouTube responded to the story with a statement to Breitbart claiming to “allow both pro-life and pro-choice opinions” and apply its Community Guidelines impartially, as well as claiming that its algorithims are simply part of “better surface news sources across our site for news-related searches and topical information.” A Google spokesperson claimed more explicitly, “Google has never manipulated or modified the search results or content in any of its products to promote a particular political ideology.”
Conservatives generally find such denials hard to swallow in light of multiple ongoing scandals over the alleged politicization of its search functions and other services. The concern is based on analysis finding a heavy left-wing tilt to news sources, estimates that Google may have swung as many as 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016, partnership with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center for flagging “hate,” and various leaked private communications, among other incidents.
Conservative commentator Dennis Prager is currently taking Google to court for placing more than 80 of his Prager University YouTube videos in “restricted mode,” allegedly under false pretenses, and earlier this week, Live Action saw one of its undercover investigation videos from 2011 deleted for alleged “sexually provocative content.” YouTube restored the video after Live Action publicly objected to and privately appealed its deletion.