A large cluster of interlinked climate alarmist web sites clutters the web. It heavily overlaps the cluster of the leftist, international, government, and academic sites. A content-neutral ranking algorithm would identify this cluster and some sub-clusters (such as personal attack websites), and would at least diversify results for climate debate related queries with pages outside of this cluster – conservative media, WUWT(1), and the climate realism blogosphere. Instead, Google and Bing/Yahoo operate as amplifiers of climate alarmism. At closer look, the search engines are not content-neutral. Let us investigate their biases closer.
Everybody that has been observing climate alarmism for the last few years has heard the denunciation of “carbon pollution” (1, 2), claims that “carbon dioxide is public enemy number one” (3), the EPA’s attempts to regulate carbon dioxide, and other statements and attempts of the same spirit. But carbon is the basic element of all life on Earth. Organic chemistry is even defined as a branch of chemistry that studies carbon compounds. Carbon constitutes most of the mass of a dehydrated human body. We exhale carbon dioxide at each breath. Plants grow by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. Respiration and photosynthesis are two opposite processes of the great biological cycle in nature. These facts should be known to every adult who completed high school before the Clinton reforms in the 1990’s, and to many children and adults thereafter. These facts are broadly known and not controversial. About 10%-15% of the world’s agricultural production comes from the elevated concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. Any of these facts alone should incite any human to think twice before supporting climate alarmism, let alone claiming the things at the beginning of this paragraph. It should be expected that every political party or another sophisticated organization would learn these facts and avoid such language. Why don’t they? Does any technology contribute to this attitude?
Welcome to Google Search
Let us start with Google Search. Google Search is a computer program, which is:
- Used to find and retrieve information on all subjects, including the vital ones
- Trusted by Internet users, including politically significant figures all over the world, especially in Western countries. Ultimately, it is trusted by We, the People.
Although Google Search was not built with malicious aims in mind, it misleads humans into thinking that their breath is pollution, spreads division between those who agree and those who disagree with this proposition, and promotes energy policies that are suicidal for society and genocidal for its people.
How Google Search Ranking Works
Gone are the days when a website’s ranking was determined mostly by the number of incoming links. Today, Google Search uses a large number of factors to rank a web article or page. From the official Google guidance (4), May 2011: “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” (emphasis is mine). Yes, you read it right. Google decides for us what is a fact and what is a factual error. Google is upside down on the “facts” of climate debate, so it probably downranks climate realist sites for “factual errors.” But this is only a part of the problem. Google has built Google Knowledge Vault, which by 2016 contained more than 70 billion “facts,” according to Google CEO’s tweet. Google Search probably uses them to evaluate the factual accuracy of a page or site in the ranking process. The link equity is still an important factor. The Google Search ranking process starts with a seed list of sites which Google deems highly authoritative. The “juice” (or equity) from these sites is then distributed to web pages to which they link, and so on. It is believed that the seed list is heavily populated by higher education, government, and formerly mainstream media sites. These sites might have been trustworthy and authoritative in 2007, but have been taking a nosedive and left turn ever since. “With Google’s longstanding policy of favoring inbound links from .edu and .gov blogs, they’ve effectively created their own hard-Left political search engine” – Todd Dunning, 2015. By the way, Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt was in the Obama administration from 2008 to the end, and somebody might suspect that Obama’s administration used this relationship as another tool in suppressing conservative speech, but this subject is out of scope here. The links data is used alongside the data from other Google applications and the real world information to rank web sites and pages. Higher-ranked pages related to the user’s queries are listed at the top of the search results.
In short, the Google Search has its own world model. There is nothing unusual about it. Many games have their own worlds. But Google Search uses its own world model to give us answers about our real world.
This works well in most cases, and we trust Google search results a lot. On average, the top three results get about 50% of clicks. The first page gets 96% of all clicks. The websites that do not make the first page might not exist as well. We developed a habit of relying on Google Search for finding information and we allow it to decide for us, which sites deserve our attention on the topic of a specific search. We can still select whether to trust them or not, but if all the top sites in a Google search for ‘”climate change” agree, most people would conclude that they are right. Thus, to some extent, a large part of humanity has already entrusted their decisions on political, ideological, and even spiritual matters to a computer program. Where is the outrage?
The Google Search world model is inhuman. I suppose the Internet is a center of it, and close to the center are the entities that have a large Web presence (Wikipedia, Facebook, Reddit, CNN, etc.), or those that are selected by Google executive management (possibly including UN and IPCC). Credit cards are also important. The role of humans is mostly as identifiable peripheral devices (IPD) – they type in queries, click on links, and are associated with the credit cards.
How humans breathe is not important in the Google Search world model. How our food grows is not important either. The same can be said for carbon’s role as the building block of all life on Earth. The respective knowledge is probably present in the Knowledge Vault, it is just not considered more important than other 70 billion “facts.” Consequently, Google Search cannot value human life or human civilization. These ideals are not facts, but religious or ethical judgements.
Google Search probably does not properly connect the biological role of carbon and carbon dioxide to the climate debate. It rewards the sites that share its worldview and punishes the sites that do not. These reward and punishment cycles are then spread through link equity and other ranking mechanisms. It’s the inhuman computer program that sides with the inhuman side of the climate debate — climate alarmism — and would do so even in the absence of the political bias in Google’s executive leadership and the massive disinformation campaign by the climate alarmism network.
Each time anybody googles anything or visits a web page displaying Google ads, the Google Search performs actions that have real world effects. One of them is that Google earns money. But when the search or the page is related to the climate debate, the search results also help convince somebody that human breath is pollution. This person can be an ordinary citizen or a Congressman, a judge, a TV news anchor, or an influential blogger. When they are convinced, they begin to support climate alarmism through declarations, court decisions, news reporting, or blogging. And because Google Search learns from the web, which in turn reinforces its alarmist bias, this adds yet another vicious spiral.
Google Search is obviously extremely biased on climate change. Two of the apparent causes are the alarmist propaganda saturating the Internet and the political prejudices of the Google executive leadership. But complexity of the underlying algorithms applied to the quirky knowledge base might have had an unexpected outcome. In fact, Google Search has apparently fooled its own creators (who are quite smart and inclined to healthy skepticism) into believing climate alarmism! And they went to trust it and climate models more than other humans and the real world.
I do not single out Google Search here. Other major US search engines also share some “genetic code” (software design and source code) with Google Search and have been evolving in the same web and “knowledge” environment. Sharing of the “genetic code” happens when engineers who developed AI in one company are hired by another one, through scientific papers and patents, by reverse engineering, and when companies try to emulate results of their most successful competitor. Important exceptions are Yandex and Baidu, developed in Russia and China, respectively. Similar functionality exists in other web products, performing ranking of information for humans. Newsfeeds (such as Google News, Facebook News Feed etc.) are first suspects.
To be clear, this technology is only one contributing factor to climate alarmism. It interacts with other factors, some of which I have addressed elsewhere.
Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt
Google’s Eric Schmidt in his own words (emphasis is mine):
“One person’s definition of evil is another person’s different definition.” (Gizmodo, 2010)
“More and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type. I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions…They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” (Ibid.)
“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” (The Atlantic, 2010)
Thus, society’s trust to the web search have contributed to the spread of climate alarmism, and, possibly, other cognitive errors. With our trust, search engines became gatekeepers, limiting our access to information rather than expanding it. Google Search is almost search monopoly. Bing/Yahoo is its competitor in the marketplace, but not in the ideology. Google Search frequently directs us to Wikipedia, that’s owned and controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation from San Francisco. All three of them claim to be neutral and quite useful on the uncontroversial topics but are politically leftist and climate alarmist.
(1) By some link metrics known to be utilized by Google, WUWT apparently beats most sites appearing on the first page for the ‘climate change’ search: The Guardian, TakePart, NASA.gov, EcoWatch. Nevertheless, WUWT does not appear even in the first five pages. One such metric is the number of linking domains. See Google Engine of Climate Alarmism for more detailed data.
(2) For the record, in September 2016, I put Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo on notice that they might be on the wrong side of the law by acts and/or omissions, in connection to some search results related to climate debate.
(3) More from Google’s own blog, May 2011 (some Google bullet points are omitted), with my remarks in square brackets: “Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find ‘high-quality’ sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content. The recent ‘Panda’ change tackles the difficult task of algorithmically assessing website quality.” But “the questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue
- Would you trust the information presented in this article? [I wouldn’t trust anything that the top links from a Google search say on climate, Donald Trump, and many other subjects. But how could Google determine whether the user would trust it or not?]
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? [Then why are articles by Andrew Revkin of NYT and George Monbiot of The Guardian on meteorology ranked higher than articles by Anthony Watts?]
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? [discussed above]
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? [But the top-ranked sites rarely provide anything original. On climate, they usually repeat the same old lies that sometimes date back 30 years.]
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? [If Google wanted pages that provide substantial value ‘compared to other pages in search results’ for climate debate, it would return links to WUWT or other climate realist sites. It does not do that.]
- How much quality control is done on content? [same]
- Does the article describe both sides of a story? [LOL! None of the top-ranked results that Google returns on ‘climate change’ searches describe both sides of the story.]
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? [Recognized by whom?]
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? [This was mentioned as a general requirement; see above.]
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? [Would you recognize some top-ranked sites as Fake News Network, The New York Lies, and other FSM?]
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? [Here, Google pretends that it does not only know what is true, but that is has complete and comprehensive knowledge of the truth.]
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? [See previous remark.]
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site? [The activists would complain every time they see anything they don’t like. Does Google act on such complaints?]