Internet censorship concerns all Internet users, those who engage in it and impose it, and those who suffer its consequences. Take the example of PragerU:
The link behind that image leads to a vigorous Facebook discussion of Internet censorship. PragerU used the image to lead to a link to a YouTube video, via this:
You may wonder why that video on the consequences of Google censorship contains nothing that has anything to do with Marissa Streit. The reason, I speculate, is fairly simple. The announcement of the video could declare who is delivering its message. That would have caused a problem. You would most likely not be able to watch the video on YouTube. That is what the video is about. It has James Damore relate some of the experiences he made when he bucked Google’s censorship agenda. He had advised that the sort of censorship Google promotes is counter-productive, that it hurts the advancement of women and women’s rights, within the Google corporation. It is heresy for a Google employee to express such thoughts. That is even though James Damore’s advice was merely for corporate consideration and discussion.
James Damore lost his job with Google on account of expressing those opinions. His peers and superiors deemed them to be politically incorrect.
My experiences with Internet censorship
Much of my time, when writing anything that requires promoting on FB, Twitter and on my website and blog, is spent in determining ways by which to circumvent or avoid censorship. That is, algorithms that the providers of search engines and social media design and apply in exercising their ever tightening censorship of free thought.
I have no way to determine how successful I am with my efforts, except that others are no more successful than I am. YouTube censored dozens of PragerU’s videos. At least as of now, Google has not blocked any of my articles or blog postings. Perhaps I should be happy about that, but I wonder.
Facebook tried to shadow ban some of my comments. Does Google shadow ban me and my web pages?
Shadow banning (also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting) is the act of blocking a user or their content from an online community such that the user does not realize that they have been banned.
By making a user’s contributions invisible or less prominent to other members of the service, the hope is that in the absence of reactions to their comments, the problematic user will become bored or frustrated and leave the site.
Shadow banning is used by providers of social media. Facebook used it a number of times. That is, I detected it in a few instances I found, with comments I had posted to Facebook and that vanished from discussion forums. Members of those discussion forums never saw them.
The low website rankings assigned by Google to politically incorrect websites is essentially a form of shadow banning as well. Low website rankings condemn politically incorrect web pages to the nether regions of search-return listings. Low rankings are being assigned by web crawler services, such as Alexa.com, and there is a rub. Alexa.com is being controlled by Google. All search engine providers who subscribe to Alexa.com for the rankings of entries on search returns listings are being affected by what Google determines makes popular web pages. Add to that another handicap, namely the censorship algorithms that Google employs when anyone uses their search engine.
Identical searches produce different results with different search engines
There are substantial differences in the outcomes of identical searches when using different search engines searching for politically incorrect topics.. The problem for search engine users is that they have no way of knowing what the rules are for measuring degrees of political incorrectness. They do not know what sort of standards are being used for measuring that. A search engine user knows only one ting in that regard. When searching for specific topics or subjects, identical searches cause different results from search engine to search engine. Here is an example:
Consider the search results for site-specific searches (at fathersforlife.org) for the term fatherlessness, using various search engines:
- Freefind: 1,207 results. More…
- Google: 994 results. More…
- Bing: 941 results. More…
- Duck Duck Go: 223 results. More…
- Ask: 196 results. More…
Websites that mention the search term often and on many web pages should obviously rank high on a given search-return list. With respect to the term fatherlessness, the website of Fathers for Life should always be listed as one of the first few entries on such a list. If there are many websites that use the term fatherlessness, then the list of entries on the search return list should be long.
- Freefind: #2 of 690 entries on the list of results. More…
- Duck Duck Go: #2 of 178 entries on the list of results. More…
- Bing: #3 of 813 entries on the list of results. More…
- Ask: #111 of 129 entries on the list of results; More…
- Google: #202 out of 297 entries on the list of results. More…
Those results are discussed here.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Close to a 1000 of my blog postings needed improvements to meet requirements for search engine optimization (SEO). For the past few months I put much effort into doing that. About 80 percent of that is complete. Still, I don’t have the slightest reason to believe that the effort is doing much at all to improve the search engine ranking for my blog.
That does not mean that I am giving up on making the effort. I like that it gives a more professional quality to my existing blog postings and the ones I am adding as time goes by.
My website and blog receive a fair amount of traffic. That is primarily on account of a large number of websites linking in. It is not because of a large amount of traffic directed by search engines to my Internet domains. Mind you, that is not necessarily all bad.
Typically, for search-engine directed traffic, the bounce rate is high (75.20%), the daily page views per visitor are low (1.5), and the average time per visit is low (2:58). The vast majority of traffic coming to my two domains of concern (http://fathersforlife.org and http://blog.fathersforlife.org) is the result of visitors coming through direct links. The average quality of those visits is much better: the bounce rate is low (12.10%), the daily page views per visitor high (20.0), and the average time per visit is high as well (82:11). That is what counts when trying to get information and ideas to people. An hour and 22 minutes of reading per average visit leaves a lot of impressions.
In the absence of search engine censorship of my website and blog, about 60% of the traffic coming to it would be directed by search engines to my Internet domains. Instead, no more than 4.4% of traffic to my website and blog is being directed there through search engines. A few months ago only 3.2% of traffic to the website and blog came through search engines. Still, “the improvement” in search-engine-directed traffic to my domain is imperceptible. (Update 2018 07 15: Alexa tells me today that the percentage of traffic that comes from a search engine dropped 56% during the past three months and is now at 1.9%. It seems that Google and Alexa are punishing me for doing search engine optimization.)
The figure of 4.4% of all website traffic directed through search engines is a relatively large improvement. (Update 2018 07 15: That was a month ago. Today the figure is down to 1.9 percent.) In absolute terms it isn’t. When a large percentage of visitors is directed through a search engine to a given website, many bounces (visits that last only a few seconds) happen. Still, it also causes a larger number of visitors to return (time and again, one hopes). Thereby, a high percentage helps to add to a steadily growing volume of traffic.
It is doubtful that Google will ever permit that portion of the traffic to climb back to where it once was, around 60%. At that time (in 2007), the website had 1.5 million annual visits. Now it has considerably fewer annual visitors. Its rank has fallen from 270,000th (in 2007) to 650,000th place (in 2018) in the world. That is in spite of the quality of articles having steadily improved since then. It happened even though I spent a very large amount of time and effort during the last 12 months to improve the site for search engine optimization (SEO).
So, I will muddle on with my SEO efforts, for my own satisfaction, and just to see what Google will do next.
Aspects of the impact of Internet censorship
The tale of my experiences of Internet censorship over the years can use a bit of rounding out. Here is a link to a list of more than eighty commentaries I wrote and published about various instances of censorship (the first or second item happens to be in German, but I think that is the only German-language item on the list): More…
If nothing else, those commentaries provide insight into the enormous scope of the impact of censorship, just from the perspective of a single individual.
Many people feel that Google or Facebook have the right to censor. I wonder about that. The services of search engine providers and providers of the social media depend on the good faith of their clients. Their clients should have the right to exercise their right to freedom of expression, but not only that. Others are a bit more passive in the universal exchange of information. They primarily search for information, to read or study it. They have the right to freedom of access to information. Unfortunately, censorship affects the providers and the users of information, the censored as well as the censors.
Those consideration should take into account. There is the good faith of the clients who trust that a search engine provider will find what they look for, when it can be found. They permit providers of search engines and social media to derive vast fortunes from their mutual presence on the Internet. The absence of censorship will stil permit thoose fortunes to be made.
Internet censorship requires other considerations. Not the least is that, going by my experiences, censorship consumes vast amounts of time, effort and money. For example, a large division of Google (employing about 2,000, I understand) designs and applies search algorithms. Many of those algorithms cater to censorship. Search engine clients provide and use information. Providers of search engines and social media derive their incomes from that. Censorship causes those clients to suffer not only loss of opportunity but often harm. That is at least due to trying to overcome the consequences of censorship. Merely the effort to understand that a specific instant of censorship is taking place takes time. To assess its significance takes more time and effort. To try to overcome the obstacle of censorship takes more time yet.
Conclusion – Internet censorship happens and is not good.
Internet censorship forced me to spend thousands of hours of work over the years. I am only one of billions of people who are – some more, some less – similarly affected by Internet censorship.
It is not a good thing that a large corporation without a legislated mandate and with little control by democratically elected legislators through any regulatory agencies has the enormous extent of power to influence, control and steer what billions of people in the world must think and talk about in their everyday activities. Such power vastly exceeds that of Big Brother described by George Orwell in ‘1984’.