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What the Duma elections say about Russia

The elections to the Duma accurately reflect voting in the country. The elections confirm overwhelming support for Vladimir Putin and the government, and prove that Russia’s “liberal opposition” is no more than a fringe group.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though there are still a few votes to count, the results of the Duma elections are no longer expected to change, and are as follows:

United Russia, Russia’s governing party, has won 54.21% of the vote. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation came second with 13.53% of the vote, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky came in third place with 13.28% of the vote.  The social democratic A Just Russian party gained 6.19% of the votes.

No other party overcame the 5% threshold for entry into the Duma in the half of the Duma elected by the proportional representation/party list system.

Voting for the minor parties was as follows: Communists of Russia is in the fifth place with 2.35% of the vote, followed by Yabloko (1.86%), the Russian Party of Pensioners for Justice (1.75%), Rodina (1.44%), the Party of Growth (1.18%), the Green party (0.74%), Parnas (the party Khodorkovsky is supporting) (0.70%), Russia’s Patriots (0.58%), Civic Platform (0.22%). The Civil Power party is in last place with 0.14% of vote.

Because half the Duma is elected by the first past the post winner-takes-all single member constituency system these results have given the ruling party United Russia a lopsided majority. 

According to the latest election returns the Central Election Commission says United Russia will have a total of 343 seats in the Duma (76.22% of the seats). In other words it will enjoy a ‘constitutional majority’ (which requires 300 seats), enabling it to amend the constitution without needing the support of the other parties.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation looks to win 42 seats (9.34% of the total), Zhirinovsky’s LDPR – 39 mandates (8.67% of the total), and A Just Russia, 23 seats (5.11% of the total).

In addition, the nationalist Rodina party and Civic Platform – the liberal party of the billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov – have each won one seat by each winning the vote in one single member constituency, whilst an independent – Vladislav Reznik – has also managed to win himself a seat in this way.

Contrary to some early reports neither Yabloko – Russia’s oldest and biggest liberal party – nor Parnas – the party led by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and backed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, with which such liberal opposition activists such as the blogger Alexey Navalny have on occasion been associated – won seats, and neither party will have any seats in the new Duma.

That means that those parties and political leaders who were at the forefront of the 2011 protests have completely failed to gain election to the Duma.

Russia’s liberal parties are a mixed bunch.  Prokhorov – the de facto leader of Civic Platform, the one liberal party to win a seat in the Duma – is not really an opponent of Putin’s, nor is he really an opponent of the government.  Rather he and his party should be seen as representing the uttermost liberal fringe of the governing political establishment, even if they do say critical things about the government from time to time.  The same thing could also be said of the Party of Growth, which is essentially the latest iteration of the former Union of Right Wing Forces, another pro-establishment liberal party.

Nonetheless if one brings together the votes of all of the liberal or quasi-liberal parties and treats them all as opposition parties, then their combined vote in this election is still just 4.1%. 

What that means is that even if all the liberal parties had come together into one party they would still have failed to pass the 5% threshold needed to gain entry to the Duma in the half of the Duma which is elected by the proportional representation/party list system.  It is not even clear that they would have won any more seats than the single seat Prokhorov’s Civic Platform won in the half of the Duma elected by the single member constituency system.

Despite their dismal showing the Western media and Western governments still persist in pretending that it is these liberal parties which are the opposition to the government. 

The standard refrain is that if these parties do badly in elections it is not because the government is popular or because they are unpopular.  It is because the elections are rigged and because the political system is supposedly so heavily tilted against them as to deny them the access to the media and the resources they need to campaign effectively.

The reality is the precise opposite.

The government’s response to the 2011 protests was to pull out all the stops to try to make these elections as clean and as transparent as possible, and the great majority of observers agree that it has succeeded.  These elections were probably the cleanest in Russia’s post Soviet history, and there is no serious doubt that their results more or less accurately reflect how Russians voted.  All the leaders of all the major parties have accepted the results as legitimate.

In order to achieve this result a whole raft of changes were made to the election rules following the 2011 protests.  Procedures for registering minor parties such as Parnas were greatly simplified, the voting process was made more public and more transparent, the threshold for entry to the Duma in the half of the Duma elected by the proportional representation/party list system was brought down from 7% to 5%, and single member constituencies were reintroduced to make it easier for liberal candidates to win seats, even if the actual consequence of this change has been to give United Russia an even bigger majority.

In an extraordinary gesture towards the liberals, back in March the government even replaced Vladimir Churov – the veteran but deeply controversial head of the Central Election Commission which supervises the elections – with Ella Pamfilova, a liberal politician who was once a minister in Boris Yeltsin’s first liberal government, and who was previously Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights.

Not only has the simplification of the procedure to register parties made it possible for parties like Parnas to participate in the election, but as participants in the election they have been provided with access to state television to an extent that has not previously been the case in national elections that have taken place in recent years.

The issue of access to the media for Russia’s liberal opposition is anyway a false one.  Russia’s liberal opposition has always had far more access to the news media than it or its Western sponsors pretend.  The reality – obvious to anyone at all familiar with Russian politics – is not that the anti-government pro-Western liberals overwhelmingly concentrated in the Yabloko and Parnas parties get too little publicity.  It is that on the contrary, given their derisory level of support (1.86% for Yabloko and 0.7% for Parnas) they get far too much – both in Russia and in the West.

The result is that what is nothing more than an angry though very well resourced fringe group, supported in this election by just 2.56% of the voting electorate, gets taken far too seriously, and gets far more attention than on any objective assessment it truly merits.

This completely disproportionate level of attention comes with a cost.  Not only does it seriously distort Western understanding of Russia.  It comes at the expense of other far more worthy groups and individuals, who deserve attention far more.  Obvious examples are Russia’s real opposition parties: the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party, and the social democratic A Just Russia.  

However it also includes many others, such as those groups and individuals in Russia who are really interested in Green issues – as opposed to merely using Green issues to further an anti-government and pro-Western political agenda. 

Thus Jill Stein – the Green candidate in the US Presidential election – recently felt obliged to send a letter to Yevgeniya Chirikova and Nadezhda Kutepova after receiving complaints about her supposed closeness to Putin from them, apparently under the impression that in Russia they are important leaders of the Green movement and environmental activists.  Chirikova (who actually lives in Estonia) and Kutepova (who now also lives or has fled abroad) are in fact better described as Western funded anti-government opposition activists.  Real Russian Green activists – of whom there are many – by contrast get far less attention, and are practically unknown in the West.

Since Western supporters of Russia’s anti-government pro-Western liberal fringe cannot deny the overwhelming extent of United Russia’s victory – or the utter failure of the pro-Western liberal fringe groups they support – they have hit instead on the turnout, which at 47% is lower than in previous parliamentary elections, and which they say shows diminishing public support for the government (see for example here and here).

This is to stand reality on its head.  If turnout in this election had been 13% higher so as to bring turnout back to the level of 60% achieved in the 2011 election, and if United Russia was not given a single extra vote over and above those it actually achieved in the election, its vote share would still be 47% – still far more than that of any other party, and still a convincing victory by any measure.

In reality it beggars belief that if turnout had been higher none of the extra votes would have gone to United Russia.  On the contrary everything points to the probability that many of the voters who didn’t vote would, if they had voted, have supported it. 

As it happens, since liberal voters in Russia tend to be more motivated than other voters (a factor that proved important in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election), the probability is that they actually benefited from the lower turnout rather than suffered from it.

The lower turnout in this election in fact has a perfectly simple explanation, which has nothing to do with disenchantment with the government or with the political system or with concern about election fraud

In previous election cycles the parliamentary elections were timed to precede by a few months the far more important Presidential elections of which they were seen as a dress-rehearsal.  One of the changes made following the 2011 protests was to break this link, so that the next Presidential election is not now due until 2018. 

This has inevitably diminished interest in the parliamentary elections, and is sufficient by itself to explain the lower turnout.

The fundamental lesson of this election, made previously for The Duran by myself and by my colleague Adam Garrie, is that Russia is politically an extremely stable country.  The government commands very high levels of support, and the political system has legitimacy.  Individuals and groups who reject the government and deny the political system’s legitimacy are few and marginal.

Western commentators’ refusal to acknowledge this fact, and their persistence in treating the post-election 2011 protests as indicators of widespread popular hostility to the government, is an exercise in denial. 

The 2011 protests were triggered by anger on the part of liberal voters in Moscow at their failure to gain representation in a Duma elected that year exclusively on the proportional representation/party list system – something which would also have been true if the Duma had been elected exclusively through such a system in Sunday’s election.  This followed an election campaign in which liberal voters – excited by Navalny’s branding of United Russia as “the party of crooks and thieves” – persuaded themselves that they would win far more votes in the elections than on any objective assessment they had a right to expect.  The protests did not signify wider public hostility to the government – a fact shown by the fact that they were both comparatively small and were confined entirely to Moscow.

What this means is that continued attempts by the US and other Western governments to engineer “democracy promotion”, “colour revolution” or “regime change” in Russia are doomed to failure.  They will continue to fail even if a future Hillary Clinton administration steps up with them. 

On the facts the only thing such attempts can achieve is anger the Russians, and make sure that relations between the US and Russia will go on getting worse.    

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May survives ‘no confidence’ vote as UK moves towards March 29 deadline or Article 50 extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 168.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the ‘no confidence’ vote that UK Prime Minister May won with the a slim margin…meaning that though few MPs have confidence in her ‘Brexit withdrawal’ negotiating skills, they appear to have no problem allowing May to lead the country towards its Brexit deadline in March, which coincidently may be delayed and eventually scrapped altogether.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is cozying up to Brussels’ oligarchs, working his evil magic to derail the will of the British people, and keep the integrationist ambitions for the UK and Europe on track.

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Via RT


The UK government led by Theresa May, has survived to fight another day, after winning a no-confidence vote, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, following parliament rejecting the PM’s Brexit deal, earlier on Tuesday evening.

The no-confidence vote was defeated by 19 votes – the government winning by 325 to 306. It’s a rare positive note for May’s Tory cabinet after the humiliating Brexit defeat.

Speaking immediately after the vote, a victorious May said she was “pleased” that the House expressed its confidence in her government. May said she will “continue to work” to deliver on the result of the Brexit referendum and leave the EU.

May invited the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with her individually, beginning on Wednesday evening.

“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver on Brexit,” she said.

Responding to the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the House had “emphatically” rejected May’s deal on Tuesday. The government, he said, must now remove “clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would result from that.”

Labour will now have to consider what move to make next. Their official Brexit policy, decided by members at conference in September, states that if a general election cannot be forced, then all options should be left on the table, including calling for a second referendum.

Liberal Democrats MP Ed Davey also called on May to rule out a no deal Brexit.

The way forward for Brexit is not yet clear and May’s options are now limited, given that the Brexit deal she was offering was voted down so dramatically on Tuesday.

Gavin Barrett, a professor at the UCD Sutherland School of Law in Dublin, told RT that May will now have to decide if her second preference is a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. Her preference will likely be a no-deal Brexit, Barrett said, adding that “since no other option commands a majority in the House” a no-deal exit is now “the default option.”

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Final Steps in Syria’s Successful Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty

The war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The situation in Syria evolves daily and sees two situations very closely linked to each other, with the US withdrawal from Syria and the consequent expansionist ambitions of Erdogan in Syria and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) takeover in Idlib that frees the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian aviation to liberate the de-escalation zone.

Trump has promised to destroy Turkey economically if he attacks the Kurds, reinforcing his claim that Erdogan will not target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the US withdraws from the area. One of the strongest accusations made against Trump’s withdrawal by his opponents is that no Middle Eastern force will ever trust the US again if they abandon the SDF to its fate, that is, to its annihilation at the hands of the Turkish army and its FSA proxies. This, however, is not possible; not so much because of Trump’s economic threats, but because of Damascus and Moscow being strongly opposed to any Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria.

This is a red line drawn by Putin and Assad, and the Turkish president likely understands the consequences of any wrong moves. It is no coincidence that he stated several times that he had no problems with the “Syrians or Syrian-Kurdish brothers”, and repeated that if the area under the SDF were to come under the control of Damascus, Turkey would have no need to intervene in Syria. Trump’s request that Ankara have a buffer zone of 20 kilometers separating the Kurdish and Turkish forces seems to complement the desire of Damascus and Moscow to avoid a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the SDF.

The only party that seems to be secretly encouraging a clash between the SDF and Turkish forces is Israel, criticizing Ankara and singing the praises of the SDF, in order to try and accentuate the tensions between the two sides, though naturally without success. Israel’s continued raids in Syria, though almost constantly failing due to Syrian air defense, and the divide-and-rule policy used against Turkey and the SDF, show that Tel Aviv is now weakened and mostly irrelevant in the Syrian conflict.

In Idlib, the situation seems to be becoming less complicated and difficult to decipher. Russia, Iran and Syria had asked Erdogan to take control of the province through its “moderate jihadists”, sit down at the negotiating table, and resolve the matter through a diplomatic solution. Exactly the opposite happened. The HTS (formerly al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria) has in recent weeks conquered practically the whole province of Idlib, with numerous forces linked to Turkey (Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki) dissolving and merging into HTS. This development puts even more pressure on Erdogan, who is likely to see his influence in Idlib fade away permanently. Moreover, this evolution represents a unique opportunity for Damascus and Moscow to start operations in Idlib with the genuine justification of combating terrorism. It is a repeat of what happened in other de-escalation areas. Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly requested the moderates be separated from the terrorists, so as to approach the situation with a diplomatic negotiation.

In the absence of an effective division of combatants, all are considered terrorists, with the military option replacing the diplomatic. This remains the only feasible option to free the area from terrorists who are not willing to give back territory to the legitimate government in Damascus and are keeping civilians hostages. The Idlib province seems to have experienced the same playbook applied in other de-escalation zones, this time with a clear contrast between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that shows how the struggle between the two countries is much deeper than it appears. The reasons behind the Khashoggi case and the diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were laid bare in the actions of the HTS in Idlib, which has taken control of all the areas previously held by Ankara’s proxies.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow and Damascus would like to encourage Erdogan to recover Idlib through its proxies, trying to encourage jihadists to fight each other as much as possible in order to lighten the task of the SAA, or whether they would prefer to press the advantage themselves and attack while the terrorist front is experiencing internal confusion.

In terms of occupied territory and accounts to be settled, two areas of great importance for the future of Syria remain unresolved, namely al-Tanf, occupied by US forces on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and the area in the north of Syria occupied by Turkish forces and their FSA proxies. It is too early to approach a solution militarily, it being easier for Damascus and Moscow to complete the work to free Syria from the remaining terrorists. Once this has been done, the presence of US or Turkish forces in Syria, whether directly or indirectly, would become all the more difficult to justify. Driving away the US and, above all, Turkey from Syrian territory will be the natural next step in the Syrian conflict.

This is an unequivocal sign that the war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus. Several countries — including Italy in the near future — will reopen their embassies in Syria to demonstrate that the war, even if not completely over, is effectively won by Damascus and her allies.

For this reason, several countries that were previously opposed to Damascus, like the United Arab Emirates, are understood to have some kind of contact with the government of Damascus. If they intend to become involved in the reconstruction process and any future investment, they will quite naturally need to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus. The Arab League is also looking to welcome Syria back into the fold.

Such are signs that Syria is returning to normality, without forgetting which and how many countries have conspired and acted directly against the Syrians for over seven years. An invitation to the Arab League or some embassy being reopened will not be enough to compensate for the damage done over years, but Assad does not preclude any option, and is in the meantime demonstrating to the Israelis, Saudis and the US Deep State that their war has failed and that even their most loyal allies are resuming diplomatic relations with Damascus, a double whammy against the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists.

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Google Manipulated YouTube Search Results for Abortion, Maxine Waters, David Hogg

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News.

The Duran

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Via Breitbart


In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”

The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.

In the leaked discussion thread, a Google site reliability engineer hinted at the existence of more search blacklists, according to the source.

“We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” said the employee. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

Others were more concerned about the presence of the blacklist. According to the source, the software engineer who started the discussion called the manipulation of search results related to abortion a “smoking gun.”

The software engineer noted that the change had occurred following an inquiry from a left-wing Slate journalist about the prominence of pro-life videos on YouTube, and that pro-life videos were replaced with pro-abortion videos in the top ten results for the search terms following Google’s manual intervention.

“The Slate writer said she had complained last Friday and then saw different search results before YouTube responded to her on Monday,” wrote the employee. “And lo and behold, the [changelog] was submitted on Friday, December 14 at 3:17 PM.”

The manually downranked items included several videos from Dr. Antony Levatino, a former abortion doctor who is now a pro-life activist. Another video in the top ten featured a woman’s personal story of being pressured to have an abortion, while another featured pro-life conservative Ben Shapiro. The Slate journalist who complained to Google reported that these videos previously featured in the top ten, describing them in her story as “dangerous misinformation.”

Since the Slate journalist’s inquiry and Google’s subsequent intervention, the top search results now feature pro-abortion content from left-wing sources like BuzzFeed, Vice, CNN, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In her report, the Slate journalist acknowledged that the search results changed shortly after she contacted Google.

The manual adjustment of search results by a Google-owned platform contradicts a key claim made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his congressional testimony earlier this month: that his company does not “manually intervene on any search result.”

A Google employee in the discussion thread drew attention to Pichai’s claim, noting that it “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists.”

One of the posts in the discussion also noted that the blacklist had previously been edited to include the search term “Maxine Waters” after a single Google employee complained the top YouTube search result for Maxine Waters was “very low quality.”

Google’s alleged intervention on behalf of a Democratic congresswoman would be further evidence of the tech giant using its resources to prop up the left. Breitbart News previously reported on leaked emails revealing the company targeted pro-Democrat demographics in its get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016.

According to the source, a software engineer in the thread also noted that “a bunch of terms related to the abortion referendum in Ireland” had been added to the blacklist – another change with potentially dramatic consequences on the national policies of a western democracy.

youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

At least one post in the discussion thread revealed the existence of a file called “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist,” which contains a list of YouTube search terms that Google manually curates. In addition to the terms “abortion,” “abortions,” “Maxine Waters,” and search terms related to the Irish abortion referendum, a Google software engineer noted that the blacklist includes search terms related to terrorist attacks. (the posts specifically mentions that the “Strasbourg terrorist attack” as being on the list).

“If you look at the other entries recently added to the youtube_controversial_query_blacklist(e.g., entries related to the Strasbourg terrorist attack), the addition of abortion seems…out-of-place,” wrote the software engineer, according to the source.

After learning of the existence of the blacklist, Breitbart News obtained a partial screenshot of the full blacklist file from a source within Google. It reveals that the blacklist includes search terms related to both mass shootings and the progressive anti-second amendment activist David Hogg.

This suggests Google has followed the lead of Democrat politicians, who have repeatedly pushed tech companies to censor content related to the Parkland school shooting and the Parkland anti-gun activists. It’s part of a popular new line of thought in the political-media establishment, which views the public as too stupid to question conspiracy theories for themselves.

Here is the partial blacklist leaked to Breitbart:

2117 plane crash Russian

2118 plane crash

2119 an-148

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

2121 florida shooting crisis actors

2122 florida conspiracy

2123 florida false flag shooting

2124 florida false flag

2125 fake florida school shooting

2126 david hogg hoax

2127 david hogg fake

2128 david hogg crisis actor

2129 david hogg forgets lines

2130 david hogg forgets his lines

2131 david hogg cant remember his lines

2132 david hogg actor

2133 david hogg cant remember

2134 david hogg conspiracy

2135 david hogg exposed

2136 david hogg lines

2137 david hogg rehearsing

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

The full internal filepath of the blacklist, according to another source, is:

//depot/google3/googledata/superroot/youtube/youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

Contradictions

Responding to a request for comment, a YouTube spokeswoman said the company wants to promote “authoritative” sources in its search results, but maintained that YouTube is a “platform for free speech” that “allow[s]” both pro-life and pro-abortion content.

YouTube’s full comment:

YouTube is a platform for free speech where anyone can choose to post videos, as long as they follow our Community Guidelines, which prohibit things like inciting violence and pornography. We apply these policies impartially and we allow both pro-life and pro-choice opinions. Over the last year we’ve described how we are working to better surface news sources across our site for news-related searches and topical information. We’ve improved our search and discovery algorithms, built new features that clearly label and prominently surface news sources on our homepage and search pages, and introduced information panels to help give users more authoritative sources where they can fact check information for themselves.

In the case of the “abortion” search results, YouTube’s intervention to insert “authoritative” content resulted in the downranking of pro-life videos and the elevation of pro-abortion ones.

A Google spokesperson took a tougher line than its YouTube subsidiary, stating that “Google has never manipulated or modified the search results or content in any of its products to promote a particular political ideology.”

However, in the leaked discussion thread, a member of Google’s “trust & safety” team, Daniel Aaronson, admitted that the company maintains “huge teams” that work to adjust search results for subjects that are “prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content” – all subjective terms that are frequently used to suppress right-leaning sources.

He also admitted that the interventions weren’t confined to YouTube – they included search results delivered via Google Assistant, Google Home, and in rare cases Google ’s organic search results.

In the thread, Aaronson attempted to explain how search blacklisting worked. He claimed that highly specific searches would generate non-blacklisted results, even controversial ones. But the inclusion of highly specific terms in the YouTube blacklist, like “David Hogg cant remember his lines” – the name of an actual viral video – seems to contradict this.

Aaronson’s full post is copied below:

I work in Trust and Safety and while I have no particular input as to exactly what’s happening for YT I can try to explain why you’d have this kind of list and why people are finding lists like these on Code Search.

When dealing with abuse/controversial content on various mediums you have several levers to deal with problems. Two prominent levers are “Proactive” and “Reactive”:

  • Proactive: Usually refers to some type of algorithm/scalable solution to a general problem
    • E.g.: We don’t allow straight up porn on YouTube so we create a classifier that detects porn and automatically remove or flag for review the videos the porn classifier is most certain of
  • Reactive: Usually refers to a manual fix to something that has been brought to our attention that our proactive solutions don’t/didn’t work on and something that is clearly in the realm of bad enough to warrant a quick targeted solution (determined by pages and pages of policies worked on over many years and many teams to be fair and cover necessary scope)
    • E,g.: A website that used to be a good blog had it’s domain expire and was purchased/repurposed to spam Search results with autogenerated pages full of gibberish text, scraped images, and links to boost traffic to other spammy sites. It is manually actioned for violating policy

These Organic Search policies and the consequences to violating them are public

Manually reacting to things is not very scalable, and is not an ideal solution to most problems, so the proactive lever is really the one we all like to lean on. Ideally, our classifiers/algorithm are good at providing useful and rich results to our users while ignoring things at are not useful or not relevant. But we all know, this isn’t exactly the case all the time (especially on YouTube).

From a user perspective, there are subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content. Now, these words are highly subjective and no one denies that. But we can all agree generally, lines exist in many cultures about what is clearly okay vs. what is not okay. E.g. a video of a puppy playing with a toy is probably okay in almost every culture or context, even if it’s not relevant to the query. But a video of someone committing suicide and begging others to follow in his/her footsteps is probably on the other side of the line for many folks.

While my second example is technically relevant to the generic query of “suicide”, that doesn’t mean that this is a very useful or good video to promote on the top of results for that query. So imagine a classifier that says, for any queries on a particular text file, let’s pull videos using signals that we historically understand to be strong indicators of quality (I won’t go into specifics here, but those signals do exist). We’re not manually curating these results, we’re just saying “hey, be extra careful with results for this query because many times really bad stuff can appear and lead to a bad experience for most users”. Ideally the proactive lever did this for us, but in extreme cases where we need to act quickly on something that is so obviously not okay, the reactive/manual approach is sometimes necessary. And also keep in mind, that this is different for every product. The bar for changing classifiers or manual actions on span in organic search is extremely high. However, the bar for things we let our Google Assistant say out loud might be a lot lower. If I search for “Jews run the banks” – I’ll likely find anti-semitic stuff in organic search. As a Jew, I might find some of these results offensive, but they are there for people to research and view, and I understand that this is not a reflection of Google feels about this issue. But if I ask Google assistant “Why do Jews run the banks” we wouldn’t be similarly accepting if it repeated and promoted conspiracy theories that likely pop up in organic search in her smoothing voice.

Whether we agree or not, user perception of our responses, results, and answers of different products and mediums can change. And I think many people are used to the fact that organic search is a place where content should be accessible no matter how offensive it might be, however, the expectation is very different on a Google Home, a Knowledge Panel, or even YouTube.

These lines are very difficult and can be very blurry, we are all well aware of this. So we’ve got huge teams that stay cognizant of these facts when we’re crafting policies considering classifier changes, or reacting with manual actions – these decisions are not made in a vacuum, but admittedly are also not made in a highly public forum like TGIF or IndustryInfo (as you can imagine, decisions/agreement would be hard to get in such a wide list – image if all your CL’s were reviewed by every engineer across Google all the time). I hope that answers some questions and gives a better layer of transparency without going into details about our “Pepsi formula”.

Best,

Daniel

The fact that Google manually curates politically contentious search results fits in with a wider pattern of political activity on the part of the tech giant.

In 2018, Breitbart News exclusively published a leaked video from the company that showed senior management in dismay at Trump’s election victory, and pledging to use the company’s power to make his populist movement a “hiccup” in history.

Breitbart also leaked “The Good Censor,” an internal research document from Google that admits the tech giant is engaged in the censorship of its own products, partly in response to political events.

Another leak revealed that employees within the company, including Google’s current director of Trust and Safety, tried to kick Breitbart News off Google’s market-dominating online ad platforms.

Yet another showed Google engaged in targeted turnout operations aimed to boost voter participation in pro-Democrat demographics in “key states” ahead of the 2016 election. The effort was dubbed a “silent donation” by a top Google employee.

Evidence for Google’s partisan activities is now overwhelming. President Trump has previously warned Google, as well as other Silicon Valley giants, not to engage in censorship or partisan activities. Google continues to defy him.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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