Google Ad Blocker and Suppression of Non-Political Speech

Google’s suppression of “undesirable” speech went beyond conservative, Republican, and scientific opinions. Google also muzzled opinions in order to promote its products, eliminate potential competition, and manipulate (inflate) its stock price, including the suppression of

In its attempts to suppress conservative and Republican speech, as well as scientific, cyber-security, and medical research and information, Google went far beyond banning, de-ranking, and demonetizing content in its own search results, YouTube, and other platforms. Google also

  • Developed and deployed an ad blocker, designed to selectively block ads on pro-Trump political websites. The targeted websites include Breitbart, American Thinker, and DailyCaller, and the scientific website WattsUpWithThat. The move was so insidious that even its victims missed the motive behind such an illogical and self-harming act by a company that depends on ads for almost all of its revenues.
  • Persecuted conservative employees for their political views, in violation of California laws, resulting in a chilling effect on the speech of other Google employees and the employees of its actual and potential partners and vendors. Google managers compiled and disseminated lists of conservative employees. See James Damore lawsuit against Google.

Contrary to popular assumptions, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are likely not protected by Section 230 for hiding, de-ranking, and banning conservative, pro-Trump, climate realism and other “adversary” content. Section 230 provides protection to them only for:

“any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable …”

But their actions to suppress speech were taken not voluntarily, but under pressure or in quid pro quo binding arrangement with Germany, the European Commission, British and international advertisers boycotting YouTube (see USA Today, Forbes), and San Francisco activist groups, etc. Actions taken not voluntarily or not in good faith are not covered by Section 230. In other words, privileges granted to information service providers under Section 230 are not transferable. By the way, Section 230 also explicitly states that it has no effect on the criminal law.

This article uses an ugly term “Google enemy” for the lack of a good alternative. When Google punishes a specific person or a website, multiple motives are potentially in play. In each case, it is hard even to distinguish when Google’s motivation is personal, political, or financial, or to determine whether the financial motives are the company’s or its insiders’ (including Al Gore or his friends), or which financial motive is in play – a desire to maintain and expand revenues from foreign countries, a desire to keep its tax evasion schemes, a dependence on the European Commission, fear of its managers, or to be held accountable for their prior misconduct, etc. Google might have multiple motives to punish even a single thoughtcrime, and a website that commits one usually commits more than one. Most prevalent thoughtcrimes:

  • support of conservative principles and Donald Trump
  • opposition to climate alarmism and other leftist junk science
  • blowing the whistle on Google, its Big Tech accomplices or climate change “industry” for variety of misconducts, from financial crimes to suppressing independent research and lying about the health dangers of their products.

Breitbart is an example. The main motive behind its de-ranking and demonetization attempts seems to be Google’s deal with the European Commission, but Breitbart has also blown the whistle on Google’s speech suppression partner Facebook for its preying on teenagers: Internal Facebook Notes Shows ‘Psychological Trick’ to Target Teenagers, . Retaliation intimidation of potential whistleblowers might be motives, too. 

A Brief Description of Google’s Actions

One of the most damning facts about Google is the decline of its users’ trust in Google Search because of the search engine’s now inherent bias. Independent surveys show that the trust in Google search results dropped from 64% in 2012 to 48% in 2017, almost certainly caused by its bent to the left. Google failed to disclose this information in its 10-K (an annual financial report required of public companies) for 2017, despite the materially negative effect on its stock price in the long run. The Google brand has been built on its impartiality and users’ trust. It is expected to lose most of its value when the trust is lost. GOOG stock price has already fallen 15% from its 2018 high, and is likely to continue to fall – possibly all the way to zero.

On February 14, 2018, Google “turned on” an Ad Blocker in Chrome (https://archive.is/kGuZi), designed to block ads from a small set of websites (estimated by Google as <1% of all ), selected by Google in 2017.  This is what makes Google Ad Blocker so unusual.  All or almost all top pro-Trump websites (including Breitbart.com, DailyCaller.com, and AmericanThinker.com) and the scientific WattsUpWithThat.com were in this small set. Conclusion: Google intended to hurt their ad revenues, and possibly even shut them down.

Ad blockers used to be controversial.  After Google announced the inclusion of an ad blocker in its market-dominating browser Chrome on June 1, 2017, the use of ad blockers became mainstream.  Any software, hardware, or internet access provider can give users an ad blocker that blocks Google ads. Google derives about 90% of its revenues from web ads.  Thus, popularizing ad blocking seems a near suicidal act, a reckless destruction of the shareholders’ value.

Google published an official pretext for the ad blocker’s behavior, something called Better Ads “standards.”  The Google-affiliated Coalition for Better Ads’ quasi-technical justification cited the bad experiences of users because of certain types of ads or from too many ads on a page.  Users’ experiences on 3rd party websites is none of Google’s business, but even if it were, the reasonable approach would be blocking individual ads causing bad experience or ads on individual pages, not blacklisting whole websites. Thus, this justification is not truthful. The allegedly technical criteria were likely made up to justify targeting of “Google enemies”, which typically receive no funding from government, academia, or foreign entities, and already suffer from bans and de-ranking by Google and related entities.

Prior to February 14, 2018, the targeted sites and/or their ad vendors were forced to fall in line with Google’s diktat and to decrease the number of ads and the prominence of those display ads, apparently losing a large part of their revenues.  I personally observed the changes forced on those sites by Google and the indications of financial loss that they consequently suffered.  Google acknowledged that it had compiled a list of affected sites prior to the roll out of the ad blocker. Google falsely claims that the Coalition for Better Ads is a 3rd party.  In fact, Google is a part of this coalition, and almost all other Coalition’s members are Google’s customers or partners.

Google’s ad blocker’s intended behavior is inconsistent with the declared intent of protecting users from a bad ad experience, but it is consistent with Google’s policy of suppressing “Google’s enemies”. It is quite likely that Google had first selected sites to target, and then used its enormous data science capacities to develop a criteria including the targeted websites, but allowing an alternative innocent  interpretation.

Google updates its browsers to interfere with users’ content

By the way, the fact that Google remotely turns on/off features of its browser that determine what content the tens of millions of citizens, law enforcement, and military officers can view, and does that without permission, or even giving any real notice, should be enough to treat Google as a national security threat.

Google bribes news media

Google cultivates left-liberal news and media on- and offline. The Google friendly media not only provides flattering coverage to Google, but attacks POTUS, conservatives and other “Google enemies”.  Google has multiple initiatives of different sizes and in various development phases targeted at news media. They include Google News Lab, Google News Initiative, Google DNI (in Europe), and more. Frequently, Google simply pays friendly media outlets lump sums.  In other cases, Google provides preferential placement for the friendly media in its organic search results for the same reason.

Google bribing the MSM makes more difficult to distinguish causes and effects in Google relationships with websites. For example, it is equally possible that Google punishes Breitbart or other Google enemies for whistleblowing or that the Google enemies blow whistle on Google because they have nothing to lose.

Google uses its monopoly to selectively allow or deny its services to news media

In March 2018 Google introduced or expanded a service to news publishers called Subscribe with Google.  This service allows Google-approved publishers to accept subscription fees from users with existing Google accounts.  Google pretends that the service is commercial, but this explanation seems false.  In this arrangement with publishers, Google keeps only 10% of the fees, paid by the subscriber, compared with 30-60% it keeps from other services.  In fact, these 10% are barely enough to pay credit card companies and some administrative expenses. The real purpose is to bribe news outlets into being Google friends and to punish Google enemies.  A publisher is required to apply for this service, and to agree to Google Terms of Services just to inquire about them!

Google colludes with its supposed competitors to deny their customers access to information

Google colludes with Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft in the suppression of the information, as exemplified by this press release: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1937_en.htm.

When Hate Speech is not Hate Speech

The most frequent modern justification of speech suppression is that it is directed only against hate speech. The rebuttal to that is well known – if “hate speech” is banned, then almost any controversial speech can be labelled “hate speech” and banned. This is what Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the MSM have done recently. When the “hate speech” label was not enough, they started banning dissenting opinions as fake news.  Google, Facebook, and Twitter are especially dangerous because they have to please too many masters all over the world, have almost no human to human interaction with the content creators and/or users, make decisions based on inputs from their own echo-chamber and artificial intelligence in making decisions, are extremely opaque, and imagine themselves above the law.

Disclosure: I hold short positions in (bet against) GOOG, FB, TWTR.

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