Despite Google’s much-heralded support for the anti-SOPA movement, the web giant is already enforcing SOPA-like policies of its own, blacklisting legitimate websites from its news aggregator and following government orders to remove material from its search results and You Tube.
As major Internet giants joined forces yesterday to protest legislation that would hand the U.S. government power to arbitrarily seize websites with no legal process under the pretext of copyright infringement, Google slapped a black censorship image over its logo and urged people to sign an anti-SOPA petition that has accrued over 5 million signees.
However, Google’s main issue with SOPA is seemingly not related to their concerns about Chinese-style web censorship becoming commonplace, but rather which entity gets to wield those powers – large transnational corporations or governments.
While Google criticizes SOPA publicly, it is already privately using SOPA-like powers to unfairly marginalize legitimate web content.
Google News is a content aggregator that allows users to search thousands of news sources for relevant stories. Although the aggregator includes a plethora of obscure, occasionally offensive, and barely-read websites, in November 2010 Google took the decision to de-list PrisonPlanet.com and Infowars.com from its indexed news sources.
Infowars.com alone is an internationally recognized news website that gets more traffic than MSNBC.com and innumerable other big mainstream news websites. Our articles are routinely featured on the Drudge Report, which itself is renowned as the primary agenda-setting news website in the United States, driving more traffic to individual stories than the likes of Facebook and Twitter combined.
Infowars owner Alex Jones is a nationally syndicated radio host whose broadcast appears on an ever-expanding list of big mainstream radio stations. Jones has been afforded feature profiles by the likes of Rolling Stone Magazine, who acknowledged his role as a pioneer in the media world.
Infowars.com is clearly a legitimate and important news website that features original content which routinely makes an impact and occasionally goes viral. And yet Google de-listed the website from its news aggregator on a whim with no explanation provided. Since Google and its owner Eric Schmidt are prominent financial contributors to the Obama campaign, we can only assume we were blacklisted for political reasons.
Whether you concur with our political stance or are rapidly against it, what can’t be argued is that we are a legitimate news outfit – but Google has arbitrarily banned us from appearing on their ‘news’ search results.
This is a clear example of how Google is already enforcing SOPA-like rules of its own choosing, without the need for any law to be passed by any legislative body.
In addition, while concerns rage about the state obtaining the power to shut down websites and remove web content with no recourse, Google is already following orders from the federal government in the majority of cases in removing videos from its You Tube platform, including takedowns on the grounds that the videos contain “government criticism”.
Google-owned You Tube has complied with thousands of requests worldwide to remove political protest videos that are clearly not in violation of any copyright or national security interests and do not constitute defamation.
The number of takedown orders received by Google from authorities based in the United States rose dramatically over the past year, with demands to remove information increasing by 70 per cent. Google complied in removing the material in 63% of the cases.
One such example was You Tube’s compliance with a request from the British government to censor footage of the British Constitution Group’s Lawful Rebellion protest, during which they attempted to civilly arrest Judge Michael Peake at Birkenhead county court.
Google has also targeted our own You Tube channel for termination on numerous occasions merely for posting legitimate news content, such as the Wikileaks Apache helicopter footage, which appears on hundreds of other You Tube channels.
Crucially, Google has for years censored its own search results subject to the mandates of different governments across the world. SOPA and PIPA are merely an effort to codify into US law what is already taking place in more authoritarian countries, with the willing participation of Google itself.
Many other web giants are also moving to censor the Internet, including VeriSign, who recently demanded the power to terminate websites deemed “abusive” with no legal oversight whatsoever.
Public wi-fi systems stationed in airports, train stations, libraries, schools, and workplaces also routinely censor political websites.
Who needs government to censor the Internet when large corporations are already doing it? Amidst all the anti-SOPA rage, we should not be so naive as to give the likes of Google a pass when considering the totality of threats posed to free speech on the world wide web.
We encourage people to at least be aware of alternatives to Google, search websites that will not enact SOPA-like censorship policies, such as StartPage.com. Watch a video below from November 2010 in which Alex Jones explains how Google is censoring the web – without the need for SOPA.
Paul Joseph Watson
Thursday, January 19, 2012