By Brian Shilhavy,
Ask anyone on the street prior to 1990 what the term “search engine” meant, and you would probably get a shrug of the shoulders and a guess, like searching for an automobile replacement engine or something.
Today, people use the Internet to search for information about 6 billion times a day, easily accessing far more data than all of today’s mainstream news outlets put together.
And while in the early days of the Internet one had many choices of tools to use to search for data, today the name “Google” is synonymous with “search engine,” and is even used as a verb: “Go Google it.”
Over 90% of all Internet searches are controlled by Google today.
If Google was simply a software program that searched through all the massive amounts of data in blazing fast speed to produce the results that YOU wanted, this would not be such a big issue. It would just mean they are able to deliver results faster and more comprehensively than other search engines, leading more people to prefer using them over other search engines.
And that’s probably the way it was in the beginning.
But today, Google has decided to be the Police of the Internet, and they have decided that they know better what data you should be viewing than you do.
And they have apparently teamed together with another source of online data, Wikipedia, which poses as a neutral source for information, but is anything but “neutral.”
Together, these two Internet giants are doing everything they can to serve big corporate interests, particularly when it comes to alternative health.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, founder of Mercola.com, one of the longest running websites on the Internet publishing life-saving information on natural treatments, and exposing corruption in the medical industry, just recently lost 99% of his search engine traffic because Google and Wikipedia apparently do not believe the public has a right to use their search tools to find the kind of information he publishes.
Google buries Mercola in their latest search engine update, Part 2
For the first part of this two-part article, see yesterday’s post, “Google buries Mercola in their latest search engine update,’ Part 1 of 2.” In Part 1, I discussed the effects Google’s June 2019 broad core algorithm update and updated quality rater guidelines is having on traffic to this site.
As mentioned in Part 1, Google’s “quality raters” are now manually lowering the ranking of undesirable content and buries even expert views if they’re deemed “harmful” to the public.
Google raters use Wikipedia for ‘expertise’ and ‘trustworthiness’
One of the primary sources Google’s quality raters are instructed to use when assessing the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of an author or website is Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia.” Excerpts from my Wikipedia page read:1
“Joseph Michael Mercola (born 1954) is an alternative medicine proponent, osteopathic physician, and Web entrepreneur, who markets a variety of controversial dietary supplements and medical devices through his website, Mercola.com …
Mercola criticizes many aspects of standard medical practice, such as vaccination and what he views as overuse of prescription drugs and surgery to treat diseases.
On his website mercola.com, Mercola and colleagues advocate a number of unproven alternative health notions including homeopathy, and anti-vaccine positions … Mercola’s medical claims have been criticized by business, regulatory, medical, and scientific communities.”
RationalWiki, the stated purpose of which is to analyze and refute “pseudoscience and the anti-science movement” presents me as:2
“[A] member of the right-wing quack outfit Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Mercola advocates and provides a forum for many classic crank medical ideas, such as vaccine hysteria and the belief that modern (sorry, “allopathic”) medicine kills more people than it helps. His website is a veritable spring of pseudoscience, quackery, and logical fallacies. He is also a promoter of the idea of an AMA/Big Pharma/FDA conspiracy.”
It comes as no surprise then that Mercola.com is listed as one of the biggest losers in Google’s June 2019 core algorithm update.3 Since its implementation, Google traffic to my site has dropped by approximately 99%, as no Mercola.com pages will now appear in search results using keywords only.
To have any chance of finding my articles using Google search, you have to add “Mercola.com” to your search term (example: “Mercola.com heart disease” or “Mercola.com Type 2 diabetes”). Even skipping the “.com” will minimize relevant search results.
Wikipedia isn’t what it pretends to be
How can Wikipedia be a primary authority of credibility when the editors are anonymous and uncredentialed? Wikipedia has bizarre policies, including to never use a primary source for information – only ‘secondary’ sources are considered applicable for sourcing information. In the 2016 Full Measure article4 “The Dark Side of Wikipedia,” investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson exposed the fact that Wikipedia is censoring information and crafting narratives to benefit certain groups:
“The promise of accurate, neutral articles and privacy for contributors is often just a mirage, according to two insiders. They say they’ve been left battle-scarred after troubling personal encounters with the world’s most popular encyclopedia. It’s billed as ‘the encyclopedia anyone can edit.’ But for many, it’s the opposite.”
While Google’s censoring of content is a more recent phenomenon, Wikipedia has been censoring information and blocking editors since the beginning. According to Greg Kohs, one of the insiders interviewed by Attkisson, about 1,000 users are blocked from the platform on any given day.5 Attkisson writes:
“When Kohs ran afoul of Wikipedia, he was drawn into an unseen cyberworld. One where he says volunteer editors dole out punishment and retaliation, privacy is violated and special interests control information.”
As reported by Attkisson, Wikipedia is often edited by people with a very specific agenda, and anyone who tries to clarify or clear up inaccuracies on the site is simply blocked. The reality is a far cry from Wikipedia’s public promise, which is to provide readers with unbiased information.
‘Inmates running the asylum’
Even Lawrence (Larry) Sanger, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001, bailed ship the very next year,6 saying “trolls sort of took over” the site, that “The inmates started running the asylum,”7 and that “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases.”8,9
Earlier this year, Sanger told 150Sec he and co-founder Jimmy Wales tried to “figure out how to rein in the bad actors.” He admits they were never able to devise a good strategy for that, and as a result, “Wikipedia is a broken system.”10,11 Full Measure reports:12
“In Wikipedia’s world, the ruling authorities are the hundreds of volunteer editors who’ve reached the most powerful editing status. They’re called ‘administrators,’ known only by their pseudonyms or user names. They always win the edit wars.
Sharyl: The more edits you make, the longer you’ve been making them, the more power you’re going to have? Kohs: Yes.
But what happens when powerful editors improperly control content? Kohs: You’ll have different people with a particular scientific point of view and they’ll edit and modify Wikipedia so that its articles kind of reflect that point of view …
Two trusted Wikipedia officials were exposed running businesses that covertly edited Wikipedia for PR clients. Interests for Sony, the CIA, the Vatican, Barack Obama and John McCain all reportedly have been caught secretly editing their own Wikipedia pages to their advantage.
And anonymous Wikipedia editors maintain a stranglehold on selected topics … One study found mistakes in nine out of ten Wikipedia medical entries. Millions of dollars can depend on how an idea or product is portrayed within the computer pages …
Kohs: When you read Wikipedia, you have to be aware that the people who are writing it, who don’t identify themselves, who don’t necessarily have any credentials to be writing in the subject matter that they’ve chosen to write in, are very often pushing an agenda.”
Wikipedia is controlled by special interests
Three years later, May 25, 2019, Attkisson wrote13 about her own struggles with Wikipedia. She also discussed it in a TedX talk (above) on astroturf tools. “My own battle with Wikipedia included being unable to correct provably false facts such as incorrect job history, incorrect birth place and incorrect birth date,” she writes, adding:14
“What’s worse is that agenda editors related to pharmaceutical interests and the partisan blog Media Matters control my Wikipedia biographical page, making sure that slanted or false information stays on it. For example, they falsely refer to my reporting as ‘anti-vaccine,’ and imply my reporting on the topic has been discredited.
In fact, my vaccine and medical reporting has been recognized by top national journalism awards organizations, and has even been cited as a source in a peer reviewed scientific publication. However, anyone who tries to edit this factual context and footnotes onto my page finds it is quickly removed.
What persists on my page, however, are sources that are supposedly disallowed by Wikipedia’s policies. They include citations by Media Matters, with no disclosure that it’s a partisan blog.
Another entity quoted on my Wikipedia biographical page to disparage my work is the vaccine industry’s Dr. Paul Offit. But there’s no mention of the lawsuits filed15 against Offit for libel (one prompted him to apologize and correct his book), or the fact that he provided false information about his work and my reporting to the Orange County Register, which later corrected16 its article.
Obviously, these facts would normally make Offit an unreliable source, but for Wikipedia, he’s presented as if an unconflicted expert. In fact, Wikipedia doesn’t even mention that’s Offit is a vaccine industry insider who’s made millions of dollars off of vaccines …
The powerful interests that ‘watch’ and control the pages make sure Offit’s background is whitewashed and that mine is subtly tarnished. They will revert or change any edits that attempt to correct the record.”
Sanger believes the solution to the Wikipedia problem is a decentralized blockchain system where edits are approved by a community. This is how Everipedia, which Sanger joined in 2017, is run. He told 150Sec:17
“Since last July, every edit to Everipedia has had to be approved by the community of IQ token-holders. ‘IQ’ is the Everipedia token, or cryptocurrency. If someone uploads nonsense or copyrighted text, we downvote it. This already provides for a layer of editorial oversight that Wikipedia lacks.
We have barely even started to explore what will be possible when there is no centralized control of editorial policy, when editorial decisions are made according to various smart contract-driven systems, and when participation in the system is remunerated by the system itself.”
Wikipedia co-founder openly hostile against holistic medicine
As early as 2010, the Alliance for Natural Health pointed out the impossibility of finding “information that isn’t heavily biased toward conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry” on Wikipedia,18 and matters certainly have not improved in the years since. If anything, they’ve gotten much, much worse.
Still, even back then, ANH gave several examples of the blatant censorship of holistic medicine. As just one example, the president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine was prevented from posting positive information about antiaging derived from the academy’s own research.
From where I stand, it seems Sanger’s co-founding partner, Wales, is part of the problem. Wales is openly hostile against holistic medicine, and in 2014 rejected a Change.org petition to bring in more positive discussion of holistic medicine on Wikipedia. As reported by Business Insider:19
“The petition, which has nearly 8,000 supporters, calls for people to stop donating to Wikipedia in response to what it called ‘biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong’ information about holistic approaches to healing.”
“No, you have to be kidding me … Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals — that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.”
Google funds Wikipedia
Considering Wikipedia’s history of bias and its incredibly effective blocking of opposing views, no matter how factual, it’s not surprising that Wikipedia is Google’s chosen arbiter of expertise and credibility. It also means the whole “quality rating” system Google has set up is rotten from the ground up, as its quality raters are instructed to base their quality decisions on an already biased source.
As reported by Tech Crunch,21 in January 2019, Google donated $2 million to Wikimedia Endowment, Wikipedia’s parent organization, and another $1.1 million to the Wikimedia Foundation. Together, Wikipedia and Google are also working on Project Tiger, which will expand Wikipedia’s content into more languages. In a blog post, Google president Jacquelline Fuller wrote:22
“While efforts to empower editors will help them continue to add more information and knowledge to the web, we also aim to support the long-term health of the Wikimedia projects so they are available for generations to come.”
In other words, biased Wikipedia editors will receive even more support, and with the backing and injections of funding from Google, Wikipedia will be in an excellent position to further the stranglehold on natural health in years to come.
Antitrust complaints ignored
As mentioned in part 1, Google is the largest monopoly in the world. Yet while the European Union successfully raised antitrust charges against Google, resulting in a $2.7 billion fine — and this despite the revolving door between Google and EU policy advisers23 — the U.S. has continued to look the other way.
The Federal Trade Commission investigation that took place during the Obama administration, for example, resulted in no formal action whatsoever.24 One possible reason for this, Music Technology Policy25 suggested back in 2016, could be because Google managed to install one of its former lawyers in the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, thereby protecting the company’s interests.
The revolving door swings both ways, of course. In 2007, Google paid Makan Delrahim — a lawyer and current deputy assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division — $100,00026 to lobby for the approval of its acquisition of DoubleClick, which was under antitrust review.27,28 Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also pointed out that Delrahim lobbied on behalf of Apple in 2006 and 2007.
As reported by The New York Times29 and The Verge,30 Delrahim “is now facing pressure to recuse himself if the Justice Department pursues an investigation …” A study31 by Public Citizen published May 23, 2019, found a whopping 59% of FTC officials entered into financial relationships with technology companies after leaving the agency.
All of this brings us to the issue of monopolization and the corruption that inevitably follows.32 It is very clear that there is no company operating in breach of antitrust rules as blatantly as Google. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this adage certainly fits when describing Google. As reported by The Washington Post in 2017:33
“Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point … The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent …
Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said, ‘Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.’ Those with too much power cannot help but be evil.
Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony … [I]n recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse.”
Google recruits law professors to defend its corporate views
To help sway public opinion and policy, Google has also recruited law professors to back up and promote its views. According to a 2017 Campaign for Accountability report,34 Google has paid academics in both the U.S. and Europe millions of dollars to influence public opinion and policymakers alike.35,36
This includes funding research papers “that appear to support the technology company’s business interests and defend against regulatory challenges such as antitrust and anti-piracy.” Some of these academics have not declared the source of their funding, even though payments have reached as high as $400,000.37 As noted by The Times:38
“On one occasion Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, cited a Google-funded author in written answers to Congress to back his claim that his company was not a monopoly — without mentioning that it had paid for the paper …”
‘Tech giants amass lobbying army’
Power can be assessed by looking at lobbying expenditures and Google is leading the pack when it comes to corporate spending on lobbying — efforts primarily aimed at eliminating competitors and gaining power over others. Google also appears to take full advantage of its power over organizations that it helps fund, which is one reason to be suspicious of its donations to Wikipedia.
According to a June 5, 2019, article39 in The New York Times, “[F]our of the biggest technology companies are amassing an army of lobbyists as they prepare for what could be an epic fight over their futures.” The four companies in question are Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Combined, these four tech giants spent $55 million on lobbying in 2018 — double what they spent in 2016. The New York Times continues:40
“As they have tracked increasing public and political discontent with their size, power, handling of user data and role in elections, the four companies have intensified their efforts to lure lobbyists with strong connections to the White House, the regulatory agencies, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the four companies in the first three months of this year … about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns … Many worked in offices or for officials who could have a hand in deciding the course of the new governmental scrutiny.
The influence campaigns encompass a broad range of activities, including calls on members of Congress, advertising, funding of think-tank research and efforts to get the attention of President Trump …”
Earlier this week, the threat of government action became more real, driving down their stock prices. The House Judiciary Committee announced a broad antitrust investigation into big tech.
And the two top federal antitrust agencies agreed to divide oversight over Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google as they explore whether the companies have abused their market power to harm competition and consumers …
The industry’s troubles mean big paydays for the lawyers, political operatives and public relations experts hired to ward off regulations, investigations and lawsuits that could curtail the companies’ huge profits.”
Going forward, the DOJ will be investigating Google and Apple — conveniently, the two companies that antitrust department head Delrahim lobbied for in the past — while the Federal Trade Commission will have jurisdiction over Amazon and Facebook.
Google — An integral part of the national security state?
Google could potentially also garner some protection or aid from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). According to an Aljazeera report41 published in 2014, emails reveal a cozy relationship between Google and the NSA, with coordination occurring at the highest levels.
Two years later, in March 2016, Wired reported42 the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet and former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, had been chosen by the Pentagon to chair its new Defense Innovation Advisory Board. According to a Pentagon press release:43
“The board will seek to advise the department on areas that are deeply familiar to Silicon Valley companies, such as rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis in business decision making, the use of mobile and cloud applications, and organizational information sharing.”
Google is not what it seems
In his article,44 “Google is not what it seems,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also details “the special relationship between Google, Hillary Clinton and the State Department.” I recommend reading through this detailed and comprehensive analysis for your own edification. The article is an extract from his book, “When Google Met Wikileaks.” He writes in part:
“Google is ‘different.’ Google is ‘visionary.’ Google is ‘the future.’ Google is ‘more than just a company.’ Google ‘gives back to the community.’ Google is ‘a force for good’ … The company’s reputation is seemingly unassailable. Google’s colorful, playful logo is imprinted on human retinas just under six billion times each day, 2.1 trillion times a year — an opportunity for respondent conditioning enjoyed by no other company in history.
Caught red-handed … making petabytes of personal data available to the US intelligence community through the PRISM program, Google nevertheless continues to coast on the goodwill generated by its ‘don’t be evil’ doublespeak …
Even anti-surveillance campaigners cannot help themselves, at once condemning government spying but trying to alter Google’s invasive surveillance practices using appeasement strategies. Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has.
Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity.
Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community. In 2003 the US National Security Agency (NSA) had already started systematically violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) under its director General Michael Hayden.
These were the days of the ‘Total Information Awareness’ program. Before PRISM was ever dreamed of … the NSA was already aiming to ‘collect it all, sniff it all, know it all, process it all, exploit it all.’
During the same period, Google — whose publicly declared corporate mission is to collect and ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ — was accepting NSA money to the tune of $2 million to provide the agency with search tools for its rapidly accreting hoard of stolen knowledge.”
Assange also points out what he calls a “crucial detail” in the media’s reporting on the email correspondence between Schmidt, Google co-founder Sergei Brin and NSA chief general Keith Alexander:
“‘Your insights as a key member of the Defense Industrial Base,’ Alexander wrote to Brin, ‘are valuable to ensure ESF’s [Enduring Security Framework program] efforts have measurable impact’ …
The Department of Homeland Security defines the Defense Industrial Base as ‘the worldwide industrial complex that enables research and development, as well as design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts, to meet U.S. military requirements’ [emphasis added].
The Defense Industrial Base provides ‘products and services that are essential to mobilize, deploy, and sustain military operations.’ Does it include regular commercial services purchased by the US military?
No. The definition specifically excludes the purchase of regular commercial services. Whatever makes Google a ‘key member of the Defense Industrial Base,’ it is not recruitment campaigns pushed out through Google AdWords or soldiers checking their Gmail …
Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower. As Google’s search and internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population … and racing to extend internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people.
Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history. If the future of the internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world … for whom the internet embodies the promise of an alternative to US cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.”
Boycott Google and support decentralized initiatives
Why does Google and its allies fear Mercola.com and feel the need to censor the information we provide? I believe the Wikipedia page created about me and held hostage by my detractors offer strong hints at the parties that would like to shut me up by shutting me down.
In the end, it’s going to come down to a battle between those wanting to concentrate power against those trying to decentralize it. If we work together to boycott them, Google will crumble under its own colossal weight.
Boycott Google by avoiding any and all Google products:
- Stop using Google search engines. Alternatives include DuckDuckGo49 and Startpage50
- Uninstall Google Chrome and use the Opera browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices.51 From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Chrome and offers a free VPN service (virtual private network) to further preserve your privacy
- If you have a Gmail account, close it and open an account with a non-Google affiliated email service such as ProtonMail,52 and encrypted email service based in Switzerland
- Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives53
- If you’re a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts
- Sign the “Don’t be evil” petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly
Sources and References
- 1 Wikipedia Joseph Mercola
- 2 RationalWiki Joseph Mercola
- 3 Telapost, The June 4, 2019 Google broad core algorithm update
- 4, 5, 7, 12 Full Measure August 21, 2016
- 6, 11, 13, 14 Sharylattkisson.com May 25, 2019
- 8 Citizendium, Why Citizendium?
- 9, 18 ANH.USA.org September 7, 2010
- 10, 17, 45 150Sec.com May 23, 2019
- 15 Age of Autism DR. PAUL OFFIT SUED FOR INVASION OF PRIVACY IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE STATE OF OREGON FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH
- 16 Orange County Register Corrections for April 18 2011
- 19 Business Insider March 25, 2014
- 20 Change.org March 23, 2014
- 21 Tech Crunch January 22, 2019
- 22 Google Blog January 22, 2019
- 23 The Register June 6, 2016
- 24 New York Times January 4, 2013
- 25 Music Technology Policy August 9, 2016
- 26, 30 The Verge June 11, 2019
- 27 The Mercury News June 1, 2007
- 28, 29, 39, 40 New York Times June 5, 2019
- 31 Public Citizen, FTCs big tech revolving door problem, May 23, 2019
- 32, 33 Washington Post August 30, 2017
- 34 Campaign for Accountability July 11, 2017
- 35 The Guardian July 12, 2017
- 36 Digit, Don’t Be Evil
- 37 The Wall Street Journal July 14, 2017
- 38 The Times July 13, 2017
- 41 Aljazeera May 6, 2014
- 42 Wired March 2, 2016
- 43 Department of Defense March 2, 2016
- 44 Wikileaks.org, Google is not what it seems
- 46, 48 Mediapost.com June 3, 2019
- 47 Forbes June 12, 2019
- 49 Fast Company, Inside DuckDuckGo
- 50 Startpage.com
- 51 Opera Browser
- 52 ProtonMail
- 53 Digital Trends April 28, 2017
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