Google fails the "Don't be evil" maxim when it comes to climate censorship?

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First the background on “Don’t be evil” as reported by Wikipedia:

In their 2004 founders’ letter prior to their initial public offering, Lawrence E. Page and Sergey Brin explained that their “Don’t be evil” culture prohibited conflicts of interest, and required objectivity and an absence of bias:

Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.

And now this surprising screen cap I’ve been sitting on for awhile. While WUWT was the top result, the user is given the option to block WUWT results forever in Google Chrome:

That screencap is from April 22nd, 2011.

ADDED: Some folks suggest it was solely the use of the “f word” in search that triggered it. If so, why is there no block option for Lucia’s the Blackboard?

I ask readers to try getting that message to pop up searching for specific titles on Real Climate or Climate Progress and other pro AGW sites. I tried and could not back then, though it is possible the algorithm has changed in the month since I tried. I’ve also noted that once you ignore the “block all results” option, it does not appear again (for that website).

Your experience may vary, I’m only reporting mine and it appears that once you have a look at the content you get the offer to block, the option goes away. So I can’t repeat it without doing a reinstall and registry cleanse.

[ADDED: Reader Jeremy was able to get the same result with RealClimate, see here so it is good to see that it is not specific to WUWT, though that still leaves the graph below]

What prompted me to publish this screencap today? I needed confirmation that something was afoot.

Steve Milloy of Junkscience.com dropped me an email about his article Climate cleansing: Google to censor skeptics? where he quotes this from the Yale Climate Change Forum:

——————————————————–

The Yale Forum on Climate Change reports that,

… Google leads people to accurate information about climate change. Fifty-two percent of the 980 sites [returned by a Google search on climate change-related terms] contained clear statements in line with the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science evidence. For example, if you had searched for “climate change myths” in early May, you would have found this Environmental Defense Fund site, which says, “The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it.”

And Google may be willing to fix this problem for the alarmists. The Yale Forum goes on to state:

Meanwhile, can search engines do a better job of pointing the public toward credible sites?

A Google spokeswoman, who insisted on anonymity because she is not a Google executive, said the company is always looking for ways to improve results. “Last year, we made 500 changes to the algorithm to improve search quality,” she said.

————————————————————————————-

So, it appears if you can’t beat them, censor them. I hope I’m wrong about that, but this graph below suggests that my traffic has been impacted by changes in search engine algorithms, Google of course being the lions share.

Here’s my Alexa search driven hits to WUWT, note the step change in mid 2010, perhaps one of those “500 changes to the algorithm to improve search quality” was implemented then:

Source: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/wattsupwiththat.com#

ADDED: Some commenters suggest “lack of interest” in climate issues as the reason for the sharp drop, compare the number of search related visits at RealClimate.org then:

The blocking option might be a one shot deal, but the step change and continued lower results (for WUWT search hits) concern me. I had a large traffic spike in December 2010, related to the COP16 climate conference worldwide interest, but no corresponding large uptick in search hits.

UPDATE: Harold Ambler points out in comments his story about what happened when ClimateGate broke, and Google’s search lagged well behind Bing at the time:

http://talkingabouttheweather.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/google-gate/

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As I stated on another site, I no longer use Google for Climate searches. I think it was in one of your articles about the time of Climategate, where the comment was made that Bing brought up much better hits than google. it was then I realized they had already started doing that – this latest is just their dropping any pretext to objectivity.

Lonnie E. Schubert

Agreed. For a while, some time back, this site was coming up at the top of searches when I would Google a phrase or quote form a WUWT article. I was impressed. I supposed it meant that WUWT was getting high traffic and high search results, thus making the site prime real estate for Google and their ad machine. Apparently profit motive and “do no evil” take the back seat when it comes to pushing progressive agendas.

Ryan Roberts

The following google search : http://www.google.co.uk/#sclient=psy&hl=en&source=hp&q=real+climate+watts+up+with+that&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=29fe7f6f85cbb9ba
Gives block options for both your site and real climate. This new feature is probably algorithmic and not specifically targeted at ‘deniers’.

Juice

Does it only work for Chrome? I use Firefox and I don’t have the option to block any search results.

Richard111

I use Bing.

Ryan Roberts

It is more likely a feature to deal with content farms and scrapers, crowd sourcing the use of ‘block this site’ to bias overall search rankings.
http://glasskeys.com/2011/05/05/how-to-remove-content-farm-sites-from-google-search-results/
REPLY: OK how do I get around it? – Anthony

oMan

Thank you for pointing this out in your typically fact-based way. If that chart were inverted and labeled “global temperature,” Michael Mann and Rajendra Pachauri would be shouting “Incontrovertible proof!” from the rooftops.
Seriously: this is scary. For you, for us, for the public. Ultimately for Google, because it shreds their cred. And without that, they are nothing. Between this kind of “kindly smothering” and “nudging,” and the exposure of their enablement of privacy erosion, they are under new pressure. I hope they respond as conscientiously as their slogan suggests. But their slogan implies a dualism: either “don’t be evil” or else “be evil.” The problem is, as Edmund Burke showed us, “all that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.” So not being evil is not enough. You have to work to be good.

reason

I use Bing. Not because they’re better, or I’m in love with MS necessarily. They’re just the best “not Google” search engine at the time.
But, most of the time, I know what I’m looking for anyway, and where to go.

P. Solar

This needs watching but I think you need some more information before suggesting this “feature” is specifically targeting WUWT. It also appears to be broswer feature rather than google.com.

Espen

I assume this is what they talk about here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-chrome-extension-block-sites-from.html
Wuwt still shows up as #1 for that search for me (currently on an iPad).
This is potentially really scary, but let’s not jump to conclusions!

crosspatch

The problem is likely at Google much as it is at many newspapers. You have people with a certain world-view who sincerely believe they are out to make the world a better place who decide to “make a difference” by advancing that view through their work.
The problem comes in when what they believe to be true might not actually be true. Some people are likely to suppress or censor information that is counter to their own world-view as it calls their entire belief system into question. If they could be wrong about climate, maybe they are wrong about a lot of other things, too.
Heck, next someone will be telling them that they are all wrong for buying that “fair trade” coffee.
http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/Fair+trade+coffee/4782606/story.html

Karen D

Thankfully, I do not get the blocking option either (pre-Chrome). Maybe they didn’t bother to implement the feature for older systems, knowing that old folks like me generally don’t limit our knowledge to initial results from a search engine anyway.
Truly, though — that screenshot is pretty evil.

Ryan Roberts

Blocking was an experimental extension to chrome, they must have made it live. Really this is nothing to freak out about as a specific attack on your blog.
REPLY: it also happens in Firefox, I don’t think it is that specific Chrome extension – Anthony

Ryan Roberts

I don’t think there is a way to get round it. You can trigger it for any site, seems to be relevancy related.
http://www.google.co.uk/#sclient=psy&hl=en&source=hp&q=google+is+really+awesome&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=29fe7f6f85cbb9ba
Allows you to ‘block google.com’ for one of the results on the first page..
REPLY: Doesn’t work for me. No options to block presented. But the more troubling problem is the graph I presented. – Anthony

dp

The good news is it is just a feature to allow visitors to improve their search experience by rejecting results from sites of the user’s choice. /sarc
The bad news is for that feature to be offered, Google will have had to already decided the site is a candidate for mass rejection.
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/hide-sites-to-find-more-of-what-you.html
Not surprising for the single most evil enterprise on the internet.
Basically, you’re screwed, Anthony. Google, having made up their mind about your site, is sharing their opinion with others in a clever example of passive aggression.
Personally, I’d like to reject all results from ExpertsExchange as it is an extremely annoying site that, based on google results, has every answer to any question except you can’t see them unless you open an account with them. It is a search engine bunny trail.
The Google reject option is present only if you are silly enough to have a google account *and* are actually logged in. One more strike like that should be grounds for having your computer confiscated. When you have a google account and are logged into that account your life is like an open book and Google has scanned every page. That, my friend, is evil.

JohnM

Don’t be evil depends upon what you consider to be evil.
It may well be that climate skeptics are now considered “evil”
Obviously the freedom of the internet is going to be compromised.

Monroe

I use bing.

norby

I think that’s just a “filter block” for the immediate search results… the opposite is the “More results from wattsupwiththat.com »”
the question would be is a permanent block or temporary, long-term or short-term.

At least you are in good company: http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j237/hausfath/Screenshot2011-05-20at120214PM-1.png
REPLY: Ah good to know. Thanks Can you tell me how to replicate that? Update: tried all three browsers again, cannot get it to occur. – Anthony

DirkH

1) First time i heard Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” mantra i though, “Yeah, as if…”….
2) When the warmist fanboys decide to see nothing, hear nothing, they cut themselves off from reality and finally make the full scale transition to a cult (Rule number 1 in a cult is to control the information the cult members get). This will weaken them further. Wholesale descend into mass madness RSN.

JohnM

Climate blog gives me WUWT on page 2.
Climate skeptic gives me WUWT on page one, item 6.

Ryan Roberts

I have a dev channel chrome, with the blocking extension installed for the same blocking expertsexchange reason as dp and the option is presented to block docs.google.com and google.com. Did you log into your google account before searching?
As for the Alexa rankings, you would be better off using a dedicated web stats system. They use a pretty dodgy sampling method..

RockyRoad

I’ve started using dogpile (no joke!)–the good part is that it is neither Google nor Bing–both of whom are owned by less than stellar companies when it comes to ethical behavior.

DaveS

I’m checking out Bing.. Who do these guys think they are. I guess there the geeks at school trying to be hip.. Whats is it called, “Cool by Association”
Is this the first casualty in the UK of the Carbon Tax.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/may/20/tata-steel-job-losses-yorkshire-teesside
Construction slump and carbon costs blamed for 1,500 steel job losses

Jeremy Poynton

No “Block” option for me when I execute that search. Latest Chrome in use.

KenB

Perhaps the good ethical google has been abandoned and is now to stand for
Global
Origin
Of
Gloomy
Lies
Evil!!
The power to corrupt – needs congressional examination methinks or wider exposure via competitors, perhaps a Bing sponsored contest for words linked to name!!

Ryan Roberts

Some evidence 🙂
http://yfrog.com/h8rakp

Harold Ambler

The top Googlegate story (as counted by Google):
http://talkingabouttheweather.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/google-gate/
How long until the algorithm is rewritten to change this?

Owen

Anthony,
It could be that sometime mid 2010 was when the climate issue ceased to be important to a lot of people or all the people who were interested in Climate had already found and bookmarked your site so they didn’t need Google anymore to find you. (I like to be a glass is half full kind of guy.)

Sam Hall

A Google search for “F-word Fusillade” using Chrome has WUWT in first place and a option to block on every site returned. Same Google search using Firefox gave me the same sites, but without the option to block.
I like the idea of an option to block a site if you have the option on every site.

dp

Ryan Robers sed:
“I have a dev channel chrome, with the blocking extension installed for the same blocking expertsexchange reason as dp”
Sites like that are the justification for using studly caps:
ExpertSexChange.com
ExpertExchange.com
Either way the site is a bad joke.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

I Googled “google site block” and found this entry at the Google Help forum. The following is from the “Best Answer” to the posted question:

>I’ve logged into my account and it still does not appear
It doesn’t appear until after you click on the site, then go back to the search results page. The option to block will only appear for that one site (unless Google is testing a different version of what the recently released.)

I’m using Yahoo for searching. It’s not as good as Google, but I stopped using Google when you point out that they were actively sponsoring Alarmist propaganda. I made Yahoo the default in Safari and Camino (the two browsers I use on my Macs).
RockyRoad, I think Dogpile is a compilation search engine, which therefore also incorporates Google and Bing.
/Mr Lynn

Douglas DC

DaveS-Tata is the Erstwhile Mr. Pachauri involved in that…..

Ulf

So the “block” option probably comes up when the hit contains something that might be indicative of dirty sites (“trans”, “f-word”, …)?
I did a highly scientific comparison between google and bing, searching for “friday funny” and “climate” together. Google listed three WUWT pages on top, and offered to show more. Bing topped with only two WUWT pages… 🙂

joshua corning

I don’t have this site bookmarked so I search for it on Google every time I want to read this site. At least on this computer. I have it bookmarked on my other one.
I have noticed that about a year ago when i searched i had to suddenly type “watts up with” in order to get the result i want….before i could simply “watts u” and get the result.
Now it again only takes typing “watts u”

Bob Diaz

I no longer use Google for anything.
I can’t trust them and there are other search engines.

gopher

really?? No offence, but this is ridiculous.
When I google “wuwt fword”…. I get a block site option.
When I google “wuwt climate”…. i dont.
When I google “skeptical science crap” I get a block site option.
When I google ” skeptical science models” I dont…..
Do you see a pattern?
Even if I google “skeptical science wikipedia” for some reason I get the option to block WIKIPEDIA!
REPLY: Actually no, I checked that, I don’t think f word was the trigger. Lucia’s Rank Exploits page which started the whole F-word (well actually Tobis did) thing did not have that option for blocking, and she also had “f-word” in the post. – Anthony

KajH

Did the same search on a danish version of chrome. WUWT was 1st choice, but no option to block anything.

Charlie A

I don’t think it is coincidence that the blogpost that caused the “block this site” query was the “F-word Fusillade”. Post.
Perhaps the censorship was not climate related and your complaint is off target.

REPLY:
Actually no, I checked that, Lucia’s Rank Exploits page which started the whole thing did not have that option for blocking, and she also had “f-word” in the post, I’ve added a screencap in the body to illustrate.- Anthony

pesadia

Something changed between 2010 to 2011 as the graph displays. The question is what happened. The step change is so dramatic that you may be able to pinpoint the day it happened.
Where this would lead, I am not sure but it may be worth investigating.

1DandyTroll

Let communist journals like nature keep the skeptical studies out of it and et voila most published studies comes from crazed climate communist hippies.
What ever the newly developed googleniztas does is to make sure they don’t come under attack from the crazed climate communist hippie parade for using all that electricity they use. And of course they also want green subsidizes. So it’s like a win-win for them.

Anthony. I had a strange feeling something was going to happen today, and it has!
I’ve found the first real tangeable evidence of environmentalists flipping from “too much fossil” we’re all doomed, to the opposite “too little fossil fuel we’ve all doomed”.
OK, one snowflake doesn’t make global cooling, but where one leads, others will not be far behind!
At last evidence of eco-rats fleeing the sinking ship

richardM

Which is why, as a consumer, I don’t use anything Google – or Apple. I really wish “cumquat” would come out as an alternative to both! 🙂

CRS, Dr.P.H.

If Google wants to block a “content farm,” they should block Real Climate. That site is so full of B.S. that I have to wear rubber boots when I stop by.

One action could be to create a mirror site on Google’s Blogger. I have noticed that some recent visitors have come by way of such broad search-terms and phrases as “circular reasoning in attribution of climate change”, and “climate change” to the Impact of Climate Change site, and that new posts are searchable within minutes of being published.

Teddy

wow! thats pretty bad.
Google=Big Brother

gopher

OMG read this from the download site of the personal blocklist program!!!!!!!
“The personal blocklist extension will transmit to Google the patterns that you choose to block. When you choose to block or unblock a pattern, the extension will also transmit to Google the URL of the web page on which the blocked or unblocked search results are displayed. You agree that Google may freely use this information to improve our products and services”
I bet what is happening is that all of the “warmists” are downloading the extension and then blocking your site!!! this gets back to google so they lower your site results in searches! \sarc
I’m sorry…but I lost some respect for this site today.

While I’m not supporting Google here, perhaps it is the difference
between using the “F-word” and Blackboard’s using “F word” or “f word”?
Although, that doesn’t explain everything.
REPLY: I tried all variations of F-Word climate, f-word climate, “F words” climate and Lucia’s site still got no offer to block – Anhtony

Now I may be wrong, but wasn’t the president of google quoted as saying ‘deniers’ should be treated as criminals? I seem to remember this around the time of Climategate. I also remember entering “climategate” in google for quite some time afterward to see if it was true that the word would not register. It was true. Nary a mention of it in google or the MSM for at least a week, if I recall.