Jan. 23rd, 2017

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Updated 1-26-17 to make accessible for imageless proxies and to remove two instances of one search term.


Last week's post on this topic could start a new series: Lies, Inaccuracies and Fake News In Google's Search Results. It's important to bring misleading search results to light (and report them to Google, and signal-boost them to others) because for many people Google is the ultimate "decider" (thanks, W.) of what's true and what's not.

All examples in this post deal with "above-the-fold" results because Google and I would likely agree those are the results everyone sees, while most people, unless they're on a specific info hunt, might scroll no further.

Last week's post was inspired by a search I did on The Clinton Foundation, after it was reported by right-wing media that it was shutting down. The Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the Clinton Foundation that raises some, but not all of the, money for the Clinton Foundation, is actually the only entity closing. This week's post includes basic variants on the original query [clinton foundation].

Last week's post placed special emphasis on how Google positions misleading and inaccurate results in the Top Stories section, but seeing unsourced and unverifiable stories, sometimes from websites known to be pure fan-fiction pushing a Trump agenda in regular, "organic" results is just as misleading - if not quite as flashy - so also needs to be called out.

My initial candidate from last week's post for Google Search "Fake News" of The Week was for the search term [clinton foundation]. When I posted the results looked like this:

Search term: clinton foundation

In the above picture the top three results pointed to three right-wing websites with the following articles:

  • National Review - The Clinton Initiative's Ignominious End
  • Fox News: - Clinton Global Initiative to Lay Off Employees, Shut Down Amid Dwindling...
  • NewsBusters - Silence From Networks As Clinton Global Initiative Shuts Down

Now, they look like this:

Search term: clinton foundation
  • Clinton Foundation - https://www.clintonfoundation.org/
  • Clinton Foundation (@ClintonFdn) · Twitter : - https://twitter.com/ClintonFdn

So, that's better, right? That's also not even what it looks like anymore (which I noticed while editing this entry about a day and a half later).

The following searches show Google enabling right-wing websites to broadly distribute highly opinionated, often unsourced stories and outright fake news whenever a) an information vacuum exists, however briefly, on the left or amongst more authoritative sources, and/or b) when SEO tricks and other website "signals" are properly implemented by website owners, both of which seem to trigger Google's, "Hey, let's promote this piece!" algorithm, which bounces even the fakest news by the most scurrilous websites into the more highly coveted "above the fold" positions.

Search term: "clinton foundation closing down"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing down, 1-20-2017
  • The Political Insider - BREAKING NEWS: Clinton Foundation To Shut Down?!?!

On 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing down, 1-22-2017
  • The Political Insider - BREAKING NEWS: Clinton Foundation To Shut Down?!?!
  • Silver Doctors - Reports: Clinton Foundation Is Closing Down!

Political Insider comes in at the second slot; Silver Doctors comes in at #3.

Media Bias/Fact Check reports Political Insider as having a strong conservative bias that's "unreliable for facts and sometimes publishes right wing conspiracy theories." MainSleaze, a spam reporting agency, says the site appears to be produced by a marketing firm in Alexandria, Virginia. Fake News Checker doesn't seem too happy, either.

Silver Doctors is a "Gold, Silver, & Finance News" website (in other words, a site that has nothing to do with politics or political reporting) that took their Google-promoted post - in possible violation of copyright laws - from "PM Fund Manager Dave Kranzler", who originally wrote it for the website Investment Research Dynamics.

Search term: "clinton foundation shutting down"

I didn't perform this search on 1-20, but on 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation shutting down, 1-22-2017
  • Silver Doctors - Reports: Clinton Foundation Is Closing Down!

Silver Doctors comes rolling in again, this time at #3.

Search term: "clinton foundation shutting doors"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation shutting doors, 1-20-2017
  • Conservative Daily Post - Clinton Foundation Closing Unexpectedly, Hillary And Bill...

On 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation shutting doors, 1-22-2017
  • USA Politics Today - Clinton Foundation Is Closing Its Doors For Good!
  • Conservative Daily Post - Clinton Foundation Closing Unexpectedly, Hillary And Bill...

USA Politics Today comes in at #1 on the second search; just days earlier it wasn't in above-the-fold results, but Conservative Daily Post shows at #4 for both searches.

And wooh-eee, does this get fun: USA Politics Today is run by someone in a high position of publicly recognized authority, which you can easily discern by their name: admin. There's almost no information on them except a page on Media Bias/Fact Check, which calls them a right-wing propaganda mill which advocates for "the destruction of all liberals". Niiiice!

Conservative Daily Post is a fan-fiction website that [livejournal.com profile] mickeym first exposed in the things you find on Craigslist..., and I've written about it, as well. In CDP's first help-wanted ad, they sought conservative "fan-fiction writers". In a later ad broadcast by Wonkette, they ruled out anyone who doesn't "LOVE Trump".

Search term: "clinton foundation shuttered"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation shuttered, 1-20-2017
  • Drudge Retort - Clinton Foundation Shuttered

On 1-23-17...

Search term: clinton foundation shuttered, 1-23-2017
  • Drudge Retort - Clinton Foundation Shuttered

Aaaand the Drudge Report Retort (...the fuck?) slides in at #3. The most famous online right-wing media source besides Fox News claims the Clinton Foundation was "shuttered". To judge by TDR's high placement in results for "clinton foundation shuttered", it doesn't matter that even this outfit is flat-out lying.

Search term: "clinton foundation closing"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing, 1-20-2017
  • Investor's Business Daily - The Clinton Foundation Is Dead -- But The Case Against Hillary I...

Investor's Business Daily shot to #1 on my initial search.

Investor's Business Daily exists in name only as the mere digital shadow of a print-only publication that actually went defunct in March of 2016. No mention of becoming a right-wing political source was added to any public comments on the matter. The site skews heavily right-wing and has no About page.

on 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing, 1-22-2017
  • Silver Doctors - Reports: Clinton Foundation Is Closing Down!

This is a prized search query to land in Top Stories for, which Investor's Business Daily actually did, in the box (what Google calls "the card") furthest left. Two days later Google shuffled the Top Stories cards on this query into a vertical stack, killed Investor's Business Daily, and pushed the possible copyright violator Silver Doctors into the #2 spot.

Search term: "clinton foundation going out of business"

I didn't perform this search on 1-20, but on 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation going out of business, 1-22-2017
  • Silver Doctors - Reports: Clinton Foundation Is Closing Down!
  • Conservative Daily Post - Clinton Foundation Closing Unexpectedly, Hillary And Bill...

Silver Doctors, again! They're in the #2 spot, with our fan-fiction-writing friends at the Conservative Daily Post right behind. How cozy they look together.

Search term: "clinton foundation lights out"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation lights out, 1-20-2017

On 1-22-17...

  • The Political Insider - The Clinton Foundation is Finished! BREAKING NEWS
Search term: clinton foundation lights out, 1-22-2017
  • The Political Insider - The Clinton Foundation is Finished! BREAKING NEWS

Political Insider prances in at #1 on both days I checked.

Search term: "fact check clinton foundation closes"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: fact check clinton foundation closes, 1-20-2017
  • Breitbart - Facebook Fact-Checker PolitiFact Funded by Clinton Foundation Donor
  • Breitbart - Fact-Check: No, the Clinton Foundation Did Not Spend 'Ninety Percent ...

On 1-22-17...

Search term: fact check clinton foundation closes, 1-22-2017
  • Breitbart - Facebook Fact-Checker PolitiFact Funded by Clinton Foundation Donor

Breitbart, a right-wing, white supremacist, xenophobic, LGBTQIA and woman hating opinion outfit dominated both the #1 and #2 spots just two days ago. Impressive. Now just one story of theirs lands in the #4 slot. Forgive me if I'm starting to sound like Casey Kasem, only instead of counting down Top 20 songs, I'm counting down the Top 4 con jobs.

Search term: "clinton foundation closing doors"

On 1-20-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing doors, 1-20-2017
  • USA Politics Today - Clinton Foundation Is Closing Its Doors For Good!
  • Conservative Daily Post - Clinton Foundation Closing Unexpectedly, Hillary And Bill...

On 1-22-17...

Search term: clinton foundation closing doors, 1-22-2017
  • Silver Doctors - Reports: Clinton Foundation Is Closing Down!

On 1-20, the fakest of fake news sites - USA Politics Today and Conservative Daily Post - are rocking our fan-fiction world in the #1 and #2 slots. Two days later both sites are gone, poof!, but the Silver Doctors are back, this time at #2.

Search terms: "clinton foundation out of business"

On 1-20-17...

Search terms: clinton foundation out of business, 1-20-2017
  • The Political Insider - The Clinton Foundation is Finished! BREAKING NEWS

On 1-23-17...

Search terms: clinton foundation out of business, 1-23-2017
  • The Political Insider - The Clinton Foundation is Finished! BREAKING NEWS

We wrap up with The Political Insider at #1 yelling about how "The Clinton Foundation is FINISHED! BREAKING NEWS" when seeking facts on whether The Clinton Foundation is gone or not. Apparently a site that pushes "right wing conspiracy theories" and has a low fact-check score is still good enough for the best slot Google has to offer.

Here's a Snopes to ease your worried mind.