I was curious why, so I hired a company to investigate Google's claims of malicious code on my site and it reported back to me:
I have just finished working on this site and everything looks to be clean...
Also it looks like both Google alerts are caused by the following post.
In particular the following extract from it:
"Here Are EIGHT Campus Rape Hoaxes Eerily Like The UVA Rape Story"
It is is false alarm from Google side
We've gone ahead and submitted the website to Google Webmaster Tools for blacklist review. They usually revoke the warning after a couple of days although sometimes they can take up to 72 hours.
You also may try just to omit the name of the article or rephrase this paragraph so Google will exclude the article from its blacklist faster (because it will stop triggering false alarms).
In other words, the so-called malicious code was simply information about rape hoaxes that apparently Google did not like.
Google is doing everything it can to throw this election to Hillary.
Free Beacon reports:
Here Are 10 More Examples of Google Search Results Favorable to Hillary
“Crime” and “indictment” are not the only terms Google is keeping hidden from searches of Hillary Clinton, a Washington Free Beacon analysis finds.
Common search terms associated with Clinton appear to have been scrubbed from Google as the tech giant has been accused of manipulating its autocomplete results to favor the Democratic presidential candidate.
Matt Lieberman of SourceFed released a video showing examples of Google skewing its autocomplete results for Clinton, while other search engines simply display the most searched terms.
“While researching for a wrap-up on the June 7 Presidential Primaries, we discovered evidence that Google may be manipulating autocomplete recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton,” SourceFed wrote. “If true, this would mean that Google Searches aren’t objectively reflecting what the majority of Internet searches are actually looking for, possibly violating Google’s algorithm.”
For example, when searching Hillary Clinton “cri,” Google finishes the phrase as “crime reform.” On Yahoo, the result is “criminal charges.” On Google’s own trend website, there were not enough searches for Hillary Clinton and “crime reform” to build a graph of the results.
Typing Hillary Clinton and “ind” gives Google users results on Hillary Clinton and Indiana. On Microsoft’s Bing search engine, a user gets Hillary Clinton and “indictment,” yielding results for the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server.
Just putting the name “Hillary Clinton” into Google, you are directed towards searches for her “twitter,” “email,” “age,” and “speech.”
I remember what Google did to Senator Rick Santorum for a decade:
The campaign for the neologism "santorum" started with a contest held in May 2003 by Dan Savage, a sex columnist and LGBT rights activist. Savage asked his readers to create a definition for the word "santorum" in response to then-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's views on homosexuality, and comments about same sex marriage. In his comments, Santorum had stated that "[i]n every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." Savage announced the winning entry, which defined "santorum" as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex". He created a web site, spreadingsantorum.com (and santorum.com), to promote the definition, which became a top internet search result displacing the Senator's official website on many search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, and Bing.
In 2010 Savage said he would take the site down if Santorum donated US$5 million plus interest to Freedom to Marry, a group advocating legal recognition of same-sex marriages. In September 2011 Santorum asked Google to remove the definition from its search engine index. Google refused, responding that the company does not remove content from search results except in very limited circumstances...
When asked in June 2011 whether Google should step in to prevent the definition appearing so prominently under searches for his name, Santorum said they should intervene only if they would normally do so in this kind of circumstance. In September 2011 Santorum asked Google to intervene by altering the indexing of the content, saying, "If you're a responsible business, you don't let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country...To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their website or through their system is something that they say they can't handle but I suspect that's not true." In response to Santorum's request, a Google spokesperson asserted that Google does not "remove content from our search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content and violations of our webmaster guidelines."
According to Talking Points Memo (TPM), "Google did crack down" on google-bombing in the past. In an interview with TPM, search engine expert Danny Sullivan stated that Santorum mischaracterized the campaign as a "Google bomb", when it was actually a relevant use of the search query santorum to create "a new definition for the word". Sullivan argued that, in a Google bomb, pranksters persuade Google's algorithm to send the wrong results for a certain term (e.g., when pranksters caused the search term "miserable failure" to point to the White House website's presidential biography page). In Santorum's case, on the other hand, the term "santorum" still points to a web page about a "santorum"—which happens to be Savage's neologism instead of the Senator from Pennsylvania. Sullivan concluded that, "for [Senator Santorum] to say Google could get rid of it would be like him saying, 'I don't like the word 'unicorn' and I think that that definition should go away.'"
Some sources describe the neologism campaign as a prank. However, despite three times as many inbound links, observers have noted that search engines Bing and Yahoo had been presenting the offending links second behind Santorum's web site.
Tech Companies Apple, Twitter, Google and Instagram Collude to Defeat Trump
There is no such thing as Pro-Trump free speech as Clinton corporate allies serve up a carefully curated view of the campaign
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said Clinton made a deal with Google and that the tech giant is “directly engaged” in her campaign. It’s been widely reported Clinton hired Eric Schmidt—chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google—to set up a tech company called The Groundwork. Assange claims this was to ensure Clinton had the “engineering talent to win the election.” He also pointed out that many members of Clinton’s staff have worked for Google, and some of her former employees now work at Google.
So it should come as no surprise that there have been multiple reports accusing Google of manipulating searches to bury negative stories about Clinton. SourceFed details how Google alters its auto-complete functions to paint Clinton in a positive light.
For example, when you type “Hillary Clinton cri” into other engines like Yahoo! or Bing, the most popular autofills are “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” but in Google it’s “Hillary Clinton crime reform.” Google denies they changed their algorithm to help Clinton, and insists the company does not favor any candidate. They also claim their algorithms don’t show predicted queries that are offensive or disparaging.
But Google has gotten into hot water on multiple occasions for connecting Trump to Adolf Hitler. In June, when users searched “when Hitler was born” it generated the expected information on Hitler but also an image of Trump. In July, searches for Trump’s book, Crippled America, returned images of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf. Google has since fixed both—but again, why do these issues always conveniently disparage Trump and help Clinton?
Twitter is another culprit. The company has gotten a lot of slack for banning conservatives and Trump supporters such as Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos and, most recently, rapper Azealia Banks after she came out in support of Trump. Twitter has provided vague answers as to why conservative voices have been banned while they’ve allowed other users to call for the killing of cops.
Just yesterday, Buzzfeed revealed that the social media giant’s top executive personally protected the President from seeing critical messages last year. “In 2015, then-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo secretly ordered employees to filter out abusive and hateful replies to President Barack Obama.”
This year, Twitter isn’t just banning conservatives—the platform also changed its algorithms to promote Clinton while giving negative exposure to Trump.
The founders of some of the most popular pro-Trump Twitter handles—including @USAforTrump2016 and @WeNeedTrump—insist Twitter is censoring their content. They’ve pointed out that Twitter changes trending hashtags associated with negative tweets about Clinton (which has been reported before). On August 4, shortly after the hashtag “HillaryAccomplishment” began trending, it was taken over by anti-Clinton users, who used it to mention Benghazi or Emailgate. Eric Spracklen, @USAforTrump2016 founder, noticed the hashtag was quickly changed—pluralized to #HillarysAccomplishments.
“They take away the hashtag that has negative tweets for Clinton and replace it with something that doesn’t so the average person doesn’t see what was really trending,” Spracklen said. “This happens every day.”
Jack Murphy, founder of @WeNeedTrump, says followers complain they often aren’t able to retweet his pro-Trump tweets.
Instagram has also banned accounts that depict Clinton in a negative light. In June, a conservative comedy group called Toughen Up America was banned with no warning or explanation. Last week, the popular Australian-based graffiti artist, Lushsux, was banned from Instagram after he posted photos of a bikini-clad Clinton mural he painted.
“I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist with a tin foil hat, but the timing of the Hillary Clinton mural posting and the deletion that ensued can’t just be a coincidence,” he told the Daily Mail Australia. Lushsux has posted photos of way more graphic murals, including a topless Melania Trump and a naked Donald with his package in full sight. These images did not trigger any censorship from Instagram.
Facebook has a long history of shutting down pages and blocking conservative users while promoting progressive voices like Black Lives Matter activists. The problem became so transparent that Sen. John Thune sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to explain their practices.
Facebook denies it discriminates against “any sources of ideological origin” and Zuckerberg did meet with conservatives in an attempt to resolve this issue. While some walked away from the meeting encouraged that Zuckerberg wants to repair their relationship, other prominent conservatives rejected the invitation as a publicity stunt. It should be noted that Facebook employees have donated more to Clinton than to any other candidate.
Many conservatives have come to expect this kind of thing from the mainstream media. CNN, which paints itself as the centrist antidote to right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC, has actually been among the most disingenuous offenders during this cycle, fully earning its derisive nickname “Clinton News Network.” For example, as NewsBusters pointed out for just one day, “CNN set aside nearly half of its air time on Wednesday’s New Day to various recent controversies involving the Trump campaign — 1 hour, 24 minutes, and 18 seconds over three hours. By contrast, the program clearly didn’t think much of the Wall Street Journal‘s revelation that the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran. John Berman gave a 27-second news brief to the report, but didn’t mention that the payment was sent on “an unmarked cargo plane.” New Day, therefore, devoted over 187 times more coverage to Trump than to the millions to Iran.”
Another favored CNN trick is to present a “balanced” panel comprised of two Republicans, two Democrats and a host, as they did on the afternoon of July 29, just to name one instance of a hundred. However, the Republican side always features one Trump supporter and one “Never Trump” Republican, with the host grilling the Trump Supporter—often a beleaguered Jeffrey Lord—in what amounts to a 4-on-1. So much for balance.
Right now, CNN has a story on its site called “Which Republicans oppose Trump and why?” There’s no corresponding story about Democrats who oppose Clinton, even though her underdog challenger in the primary lasted far longer and received far more votes than any of Trump’s Republican challengers.
No Republican willing to criticize Trump is too insignificant to merit coverage on CNN. When a minor Christie staffer announced on her personal Facebook that she’d be backing Hillary, she somehow merited a 1200 word story on CNN’s website and euphoric coverage on the air by Brooke Baldwin for “splitting with her party.”
Daily Stormer reports:
Paki Anti-Racist Recruited by Google to Change Search Results on Alt-Right Searches!
Never forget: the Alt-Right is basically the same thing as ISIS. So every program that deals with ISIS needs to also deal with the Alt-Right.
Seriously though, the main problem is the US-backed terrorist group ISIS. Stopping online racism is just a secondary thing, tacked on, because people who disagree with political correctness are maybe also like, terrorists somehow.
A pilot project launched by Google’s startup incubator and a British IT company will target potential Islamic State recruits – and also the American far right – with new software that pairs violence-related search entries with anti-extremism ads.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has made extensive use of online and social media platforms to spread its vision of radical Islam or lure recruits to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Jigsaw, a technology incubator run by Google, has teamed up with London-based startup Moonshot CVE to design technology capable of redirecting a potential Islamist browsing for IS-related words and phrases to creative anti-extremist messages or videos.
Called ‘The Redirect Method,’ the program operated in trial mode for eight weeks from January to March, according to the Christian Science Monitor. It reached over 320,000 people searching for IS-associated keywords, from the terrorist group’s slogans to the names of buildings in Islamist-held areas.
The users’ metadata was collected during the eight-week trial and was used to send them advertisements and links to anti-extremism videos. Altogether, over half a million minutes of videos were watched by the ‘targets.’
But the pilot project was not restricted to making new videos and other content. Instead, Jigsaw and Moonshot CVE have drawn upon anti-IS video content already available on YouTube.
“It’s not just we need a huge amount of investment, we need content that’s authentic and credible,” said Vidhya Ramalingam, co-founder of Moonshot CVE, which curated English language videos for the pilot program.
Here is Vidhya talking about far-right extremism against Moslems on the BBC.
Funny, I can’t seem to find her talking about ISIS anywhere, which is strange, as ISIS is supposedly the focal point of her little project (with blocking racism simply tagged on for good measure).
In fact, all search results for her indicate that she’s an anti-racism activist who has never worked on an anti-terrorism program ever before.
She created “The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)’s programme of work on far-right extremism and integration and diversity.”
This is from her bio on Oxford University’s site (she is a senior fellow):
Vidhya regularly advises governments, NGOs and international organisations on:
Here are her articles on The Guardian, all of which are about the “far-right threat.”
If you want to ask her about this, you can hit her up on Twitter:
I’m sure she’s got a totally good explanation.
Yasmin Green, head of research at Jigsaw, was quoted by the Intercept as saying: “The branding philosophy for the entire pilot project was not to appear judgmental or be moralistic, but really to pique interest of individuals who have questions, questions that are being raised and answered by the Islamic State.”
The Jigsaw project to date includes 30 ad campaigns and 95 unique ads in English and Arabic, but the de-radicalization effort will not be limited to Islamic State.
In a second phase – set to begin later this year – Moonshot CVE and US-based company Gen Next are planning to deploy the same technology to blunt far-right messages in North America.
“The interesting thing about how they behave is they’re a little bit more brazen online these days than ISIS fan boys,” Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, told the Intercept.
“In the UK, if someone in their Facebook profile picture has a swastika and is pointing a gun at the camera, that person is committing a crime. In the US, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
This isn’t going to work, obviously, but it certainly demonstrates the level of desperation they are dealing with.
We are winning the culture war. And they are pulling out all the stops to try and shut us down.
I wonder if Google will use this program against left-wing extremism like Black Lives Matter?
The Guardian reports in 2014:
Google to cut ties with rightwing lobby group over climate change 'lies'
The internet giant Google has announced it is to sever its ties with an influential rightwing lobbying network, the American Legislative Exchange Council, accusing it of “lying” about climate change.
The move, ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change, delivered a victory to campaigners and the UN’s newly minted initiative to persuade companies to shun climate-denying business lobbies.
Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, told National Public Radio that the company had joined Alec, a lobby group that shares model legislation, for a campaign on an unrelated issue. But he said: “I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake, and so we’re trying to not do that in the future.”
Alec’s views on climate change were not in line with Google’s, he said.
“The facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”
Steve Sailer wrote in 2010:
The main Google searchbox on Google.com has a feature where if you start typing a phrase it tries to anticipate what you have in mind and offer the complete phrase in a drop down pick list based on what other users have asked. For example if you type into Google's searchboxHow do I
Google offers ten suggestions for completing this entry, beginning with these three useful questions:How do I find my IP address
How do I know if im pregnant
How do I get a passport
Commenter Victoria points out that if you type in, however, Pat Bu, Google offers you the following ten prompts:Pat BurrellWho are these people?
Pat bus schedule
Pat Burrell stats
Pat Burrell wife
Pat Buckley Moss
Pat Burns cancer
Using the power of Google, it's easy to discover that Pat Burrell is a leftfielder, Pat Buttram was Gene Autry's sidekick in 1930s singing cowboy movies and later Mr. Haney on Green Acres. Pat Burns is a former hockey coach. Pat Buckley Moss is a painter. Pat Buckley was the wife of William F. Buckley.
Somehow, I don't think those are the most famous Pat Bu...s on the Internet today.
If you type in Pat Buc, then Google just gives up giving you prompts, which it doesn't with other letters. For example, Pat But prompts you with a whole bunch of new names even more obscure than the immortal Pat Buttram.
Maybe it's just a misunderstanding. So, let's type into Google Patrick Bu. And we get another list of prompts, but none of them include He Who Must Not Be Named.
Finally if you type in Patrick J. you'll get a list of prompts of people named Patrick J. Something, none of them as famous as Patrick J. Buchanan, winner of the 1996 New Hampshire GOP Presidential primary.
Of course, Google can't (yet?) delete Pat Buchanan from their main search engine, just from the prompts. If you type Pat Buchanan into Google's searchbox, you get back:Results 1 - 20 of about 1,630,000 for pat buchanan. (0.22 seconds)
In contrast, if you type in Pat Buttram:Results 1 - 20 of about 49,300 for pat buttram. (0.32 seconds)
It's the sheer pettiness of Google going to the trouble of banning Pat Buchanan from its little prompting feature, one of its least important, that is so amusing and eye-opening.
P.S.: Richard Hoste points out in comments that Yahoo.com's search bar has the same prompting engine, with Pat Buchanan being the first of the Pat Bu and second, behind Pat Benatar, for Pat B. Another commenter points out the Microsoft's Bing search bar delivers the same prompts as Yahoo: Buchanan is the #1 Pat Bu and #2 Pat B.
So, somebody at Google is doing this intentionally. To repeat, this one example isn't at all important -- what's striking is the mindless animus of somebody at Google that would lead to going to all the trouble of doing such a trivial thing.
And because Google is so close to being a monopoly, it's crucial that the public monitor abuses by Google stemming from Google's not exactly subtle political biases, such as this silly little thing or the more serious annihilation of Mangan's blog in November (which was rectified after many complaints).
Ridicule is the best medicine.
Comments on the post:
* 1. This action is not "mindless" animus. It's radical ideology at work.
2. This action is not a "trivial" thing. It's a calculated attack in the Culture War.
And what about the obvious question: "Who will be next to start circling the Google memory hole?"
* I found this at the Google site:
"We try to filter out suggestions that include pornographic terms, dirty words, and hate and violence terms. If you encounter a term that should not be suggested, please let us know by posting in the Google Web Search Help Forum."
I wonder if "Pat Buchanan" was overzealously put in the "hate" terms.
* Google search removed all listings to my PrestoPundit after I broke the story about Obama's socialist father, the man Obama says gave him his political ideals.
All pleas to relist my blog were ignored.
* Do not read without a hanky: Google Maps imagery, currently available in the public area, displays at about about 1/100 of the satellite magnification imagery that is available in the restricted area of Google (not open to the public).
Do not read without a hanky: Google Chrome browser has taken user tracking to a whole new level.
Do not read without a hanky: Google has provided search engine query user files going back years to a wide variety of intel and security departments as a matter of routine - in cases with no warrant, arrest or even "person of interest" declaration.
* It's not just Google's drop-down menu that implies a leftwing bias.
Its logo also indicates that Google no like some patriotic America holidays. A few years ago, conservative groups complained that Google had not acknowledged either Memorial Day or Veterans Day with a "doodle" but had marked the launch of Sputnik by America's Cold War adversary.
Daily Mail 2010:
Google 'censors its website so anti-Islam searches fail to appear'
Search engine Google has been accused of censoring its results after users discovered it never suggests search terms when it comes to Islam.
In a time-saving feature the internet phenomenon, whose motto is 'don't be evil', helpfully suggests common searches as people type in what they are looking for.
For example, if you type in 'Christianity is' in the search bar a whole range of options flash up including controversial suggestions such as 'Christianity is fake' and 'Christianity is a cult'.
But anyone typing in a similar phrase which replaces Christianity with Islam gets no suggestions at all.
The anomaly has led some to conclude the firm, famed for its democratic approach to the world of information it controls, is censoring the search results.
Google's normal search suggestions originate from searches made around the world, adverts and known web pages.
The company also says on its website: 'We try to filter out suggestions that include pornographic terms, dirty words, and hate and violence terms. If you encounter a term that should not be suggested, please let us know by posting in the Google Web Search Help Forum.'
A Google spokesman claimed the strange absence of results was a software problem.
He said: "This is in fact a bug and we're working to fix it as quickly as we can.'
Google also makes suggestions which are in the future tense. Search for 'Islam will' and the results are very balanced, including suggestions such as 'Islam will be destroyed' and 'Islam will take over the world'.
US NEWS June 22, 2016:
How did Google become the internet’s censor and master manipulator, blocking access to millions of websites?
The company maintains at least nine different blacklists that impact our lives, generally without input or authority from any outside advisory group, industry association or government agency. Google is not the only company suppressing content on the internet. Reddit has frequently been accused of banning postings on specific topics, and a recent report suggests that Facebook has been deleting conservative news stories from its newsfeed, a practice that might have a significant effect on public opinion – even on voting. Google, though, is currently the biggest bully on the block.
When Google's employees or algorithms decide to block our access to information about a news item, political candidate or business, opinions and votes can shift, reputations can be ruined and businesses can crash and burn. Because online censorship is entirely unregulated at the moment, victims have little or no recourse when they have been harmed. Eventually, authorities will almost certainly have to step in, just as they did when credit bureaus were regulated in 1970. The alternative would be to allow a large corporation to wield an especially destructive kind of power that should be exercised with great restraint and should belong only to the public: the power to shame or exclude.
If Google were just another mom-and-pop shop with a sign saying "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," that would be one thing. But as the golden gateway to all knowledge, Google has rapidly become an essential in people's lives – nearly as essential as air or water. We don't let public utilities make arbitrary and secretive decisions about denying people services; we shouldn't let Google do so either.
Let's start with the most trivial blacklist and work our way up. I'll save the biggest and baddest – one the public knows virtually nothing about but that gives Google an almost obscene amount of power over our economic well-being – until last.
1. The autocomplete blacklist. This is a list of words and phrases that are excluded from the autocomplete feature in Google's search bar. The search bar instantly suggests multiple search options when you type words such as "democracy" or "watermelon," but it freezes when you type profanities, and, at times, it has frozen when people typed words like "torrent," "bisexual" and "penis." At this writing, it's freezing when I type "clitoris." The autocomplete blacklist can also be used to protect or discredit political candidates. As recently reported, at the moment autocomplete shows you "Ted" (for former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz) when you type "lying," but it will not show you "Hillary" when you type "crooked" – not even, on my computer, anyway, when you type "crooked hill." (The nicknames for Clinton and Cruz coined by Donald Trump, of course.) If you add the "a," so you've got "crooked hilla," you get the very odd suggestion "crooked Hillary Bernie." When you type "crooked" on Bing, "crooked Hillary" pops up instantly. Google's list of forbidden terms varies by region and individual, so "clitoris" might work for you. (Can you resist checking?)...
3. The YouTube blacklist. YouTube, which is owned by Google, allows users to flag inappropriate videos, at which point Google censors weigh in and sometimes remove them, but not, according to a recent report by Gizmodo, with any great consistency – except perhaps when it comes to politics. Consistent with the company's strong and open support for liberal political candidates, Google employees seem far more apt to ban politically conservative videos than liberal ones. In December 2015, singer Joyce Bartholomew sued YouTube for removing her openly pro-life music video, but I can find no instances of pro-choice music being removed. YouTube also sometimes acquiesces to the censorship demands of foreign governments. Most recently, in return for overturning a three-year ban on YouTube in Pakistan, it agreed to allow Pakistan's government to determine which videos it can and cannot post.
4. The Google account blacklist. A couple of years ago, Google consolidated a number of its products – Gmail, Google Docs, Google+, YouTube, Google Wallet and others – so you can access all of them through your one Google account. If you somehow violate Google's vague and intimidating terms of service agreement, you will join the ever-growing list of people who are shut out of their accounts, which means you'll lose access to all of these interconnected products. Because virtually no one has ever read this lengthy, legalistic agreement, however, people are shocked when they're shut out, in part because Google reserves the right to "stop providing Services to you … at any time." And because Google, one of the largest and richest companies in the world, has no customer service department, getting reinstated can be difficult. (Given, however, that all of these services gather personal information about you to sell to advertisers, losing one's Google account has been judged by some to be a blessing in disguise.)
...The answer has to do with the dark and murky world of website blacklists – ever-changing lists of websites that contain malicious software that might infect or damage people's computers. There are many such lists – even tools, such as blacklistalert.org, that scan multiple blacklists to see if your IP address is on any of them. Some lists are kind of mickey-mouse – repositories where people submit the names or IP addresses of suspect sites. Others, usually maintained by security companies that help protect other companies, are more high-tech, relying on "crawlers" – computer programs that continuously comb the internet.
But the best and longest list of suspect websites is Google's, launched in May 2007. Because Google is crawling the web more extensively than anyone else, it is also in the best position to find malicious websites. In 2012, Google acknowledged that each and every day it adds about 9,500 new websites to its quarantine list and displays malware warnings on the answers it gives to between 12 and 14 million search queries. It won't reveal the exact number of websites on the list, but it is certainly in the millions on any given day.
In 2011, Google blocked an entire subdomain, co.cc, which alone contained 11 million websites, justifying its action by claiming that most of the websites in that domain appeared to be "spammy." According to Matt Cutts, still the leader of Google's web spam team, the company "reserves the right" to take such action when it deems it necessary. (The right? Who gave Google that right?)
And that's nothing: According to The Guardian, on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009, at 2:40 pm GMT, Google blocked the entire internet for those impressive 40 minutes, supposedly, said the company, because of "human error" by its employees. It would have been 6:40 am in Mountain View, California, where Google is headquartered. Was this time chosen because it is one of the few hours of the week when all of the world's stock markets are closed? Could this have been another of the many pranks for which Google employees are so famous? In 2008, Google invited the public to submit applications to join the "first permanent human colony on Mars." Sorry, Marsophiles; it was just a prank.
When Google's search engine shows you a search result for a site it has quarantined, you see warnings such as, "The site ahead contains malware" or "This site may harm your computer" on the search result. That's useful information if that website actually contains malware, either because the website was set up by bad guys or because a legitimate site was infected with malware by hackers. But Google's crawlers often make mistakes, blacklisting websites that have merely been "hijacked," which means the website itself isn't dangerous but merely that accessing it through the search engine will forward you to a malicious site. My own website, http://drrobertepstein.com, was hijacked in this way in early 2012. Accessing the website directly wasn't dangerous, but trying to access it through the Google search engine forwarded users to a malicious website in Nigeria. When this happens, Google not only warns you about the infected website on its search engine (which makes sense), it also blocks you from accessing the website directly through multiple browsers – even non-Google browsers. (Hmm. Now that's odd. I'll get back to that point shortly.)
The mistakes are just one problem. The bigger problem is that even though it takes only a fraction of a second for a crawler to list you, after your site has been cleaned up Google's crawlers sometimes take days or even weeks to delist you – long enough to threaten the existence of some businesses. This is quite bizarre considering how rapidly automated online systems operate these days. Within seconds after you pay for a plane ticket online, your seat is booked, your credit card is charged, your receipt is displayed and a confirmation email shows up in your inbox – a complex series of events involving multiple computers controlled by at least three or four separate companies. But when you inform Google's automated blacklist system that your website is now clean, you are simply advised to check back occasionally to see if any action has been taken. To get delisted after your website has been repaired, you either have to struggle with the company's online Webmaster tools, which are far from friendly, or you have to hire a security expert to do so – typically for a fee ranging between $1,000 and $10,000. No expert, however, can speed up the mysterious delisting process; the best he or she can do is set it in motion.
So far, all I've told you is that Google's crawlers scan the internet, sometimes find what appear to be suspect websites and put those websites on a quarantine list. That information is then conveyed to users through the search engine. So far so good, except of course for the mistakes and the delisting problem; one might even say that Google is performing a public service, which is how some people who are familiar with the quarantine list defend it. But I also mentioned that Google somehow blocks people from accessing websites directly through multiple browsers. How on earth could it do that? How could Google block you when you are trying to access a website using Safari, an Apple product, or Firefox, a browser maintained by Mozilla, the self-proclaimed "nonprofit defender of the free and open internet"?
The key here is browsers. No browser maker wants to send you to a malicious website, and because Google has the best blacklist, major browsers such as Safari and Firefox – and Chrome, of course, Google's own browser, as well as browsers that load through Android, Google's mobile operating system – check Google's quarantine list before they send you to a website. (In November 2014, Mozilla announced it will no longer list Google as its default search engine, but it also disclosed that it will continue to rely on Google's quarantine list to screen users' search requests.)
If the site has been quarantined by Google, you see one of those big, scary images that say things like "Get me out of here!" or "Reported attack site!" At this point, given the default security settings on most browsers, most people will find it impossible to visit the site – but who would want to? If the site is not on Google's quarantine list, you are sent on your way.
OK, that explains how Google blocks you even when you're using a non-Google browser, but why do they block you? In other words, how does blocking you feed the ravenous advertising machine – the sine qua non of Google's existence?
Have you figured it out yet? The scam is as simple as it is brilliant: When a browser queries Google's quarantine list, it has just shared information with Google. With Chrome and Android, you are always giving up information to Google, but you are also doing so even if you are using non-Google browsers. That is where the money is – more information about search activity kindly provided by competing browser companies. How much information is shared will depend on the particular deal the browser company has with Google. In a maximum information deal, Google will learn the identity of the user; in a minimum information deal, Google will still learn which websites people want to visit – valuable data when one is in the business of ranking websites. Google can also charge fees for access to its quarantine list, of course, but that's not where the real gold is.
Chrome, Android, Firefox and Safari currently carry about 92 percent of all browser traffic in the U.S. – 74 percent worldwide – and these numbers are increasing. As of this writing, that means Google is regularly collecting information through its quarantine list from more than 2.5 billion people. Given the recent pact between Microsoft and Google, in coming months we might learn that Microsoft – both to save money and to improve its services – has also started using Google's quarantine list in place of its own much smaller list; this would further increase the volume of information Google is receiving.
To put this another way, Google has grown, and is still growing, on the backs of some of its competitors, with end users oblivious to Google's antics – as usual. It is yet another example of what I have called "Google's Dance" – the remarkable way in which Google puts a false and friendly public face on activities that serve only one purpose for the company: increasing profit. On the surface, Google's quarantine list is yet another way Google helps us, free of charge, breeze through our day safe and well-informed. Beneath the surface, that list is yet another way Google accumulates more information about us to sell to advertisers.
You may disagree, but in my view Google's blacklisting practices put the company into the role of thuggish internet cop – a role that was never authorized by any government, nonprofit organization or industry association. It is as if the biggest bully in town suddenly put on a badge and started patrolling, shuttering businesses as it pleased, while also secretly peeping into windows, taking photos and selling them to the highest bidder.
Consider: Heading into the holiday season in late 2013, an online handbag business suffered a 50 percent drop in business because of blacklisting. In 2009, it took an eco-friendly pest control company 60 days to leap the hurdles required to remove Google's warnings, long enough to nearly go broke. And sometimes the blacklisting process appears to be personal: In May 2013, the highly opinionated PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak wondered "When Did Google Become the Internet Police?" after both his website and podcast site were blacklisted. He also ran into the delisting problem: "It's funny," he wrote, "how the site can be blacklisted in a millisecond by an analysis but I have to wait forever to get cleared by the same analysis doing the same scan. Why is that?"
Could Google really be arrogant enough to mess with a prominent journalist? According to CNN, in 2005 Google "blacklisted all CNET reporters for a year after the popular technology news website published personal information about one of Google's founders" – Eric Schmidt – "in a story about growing privacy concerns." The company declined to comment on CNN's story.
Google's mysterious and self-serving practice of blacklisting is one of many reasons Google should be regulated, just as phone companies and credit bureaus are. The E.U.'s recent antitrust actions against Google, the recently leaked FTC staff report about Google's biased search rankings, President Obama's call for regulating internet service providers – all have merit, but they overlook another danger. No one company, which is accountable to its shareholders but not to the general public, should have the power to instantly put another company out of business or block access to any website in the world. How frequently Google acts irresponsibly is beside the point; it has the ability to do so, which means that in a matter of seconds any of Google's 37,000 employees with the right passwords or skills could laser a business or political candidate into oblivion or even freeze much of the world's economy.