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Everything you need to know about Trump’s de-certification of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)

Trump decertifies the JCPOA – while the EU robustly supports it minutes later

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Donald Trump has just given a speech in which he confirmed that the US will de-certify the JCPOA, often called the “Iran nuclear deal”, especially in the United States. The move is far more complex than a traditional withdrawal from a formal agreement, but nevertheless, indicates that the Trump administration remains firmly fixated on at the very minimum, undermining Iran and the international community’s confidence in the deal. In doing so the United States is ultimately hedging its bets on the deal collapsing before the US formally withdraws from its commitments under the JCPOA. However, this is a gamble that may ultimately backfire in a manner that Trump himself would describe as “big league”.

What is the JCPOA? 

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed upon between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, the European Union and EU members Germany, France and the UK individually on 16 January 2015.

The terms of the deal were certified in UN Security Council Resolution 2231 on 20 July 2015. All members of the Security Council voted in favour of the resolution at the time.

While the UN is the highest international body to formalise the JCPOA, the agreement was also ratified by each party to the agreement using the particular legal mechanisms of each state (and in the case of EU, a bloc of states).

The JCPOA prohibits Iran from taking the measures needed to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of multiple sanctions which had previously hindered the ability of Iran to do business not only with the US and EU, but other states whose transactions are often dependent on financial institutions which use Dollars and Euros as a means of exchange.

While the United States has passed unilateral sanctions against Iran subsequent to the JCPOA being agreed upon, it is important to note that the JCPOA only prohibits specific sanctions which are said to relate to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Current status of the JCPOA: 

According to the United Nations, Russia, Iran, China, Germany, France, Britain and the EU, Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA. Even the US State Derpartment and US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis recently said that Iran remains technically compliant with the JCPOA.

Internationally, the Israeli regime was alone in condemning the JCPOA while continually challenging the fact that Iran is in compliance with the agreement.

Today, however, Donald Trump formally announced that it is his view that Iran is not in compliance with the deal. Additionally, Trump offered a list of increasingly absurd allegations about Iran that are not directly related to the letter of the JCPOA.

The following are Trump’s stated grievances, followed as necessary by a factual explanation of the grievances:

–Trump stated that Iran supports terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban:

FALSE: Iran is both ideologically and militarily an opponent of both groups and has been since their respective inceptions. Iran, furthermore, has been a victim of Takfiri terrorism.

–Trump expressed concern that Iran is developing ballistic missiles  

True: However, Iran’s missile program is not a violation of the JCPOA in any way, shape or form. The United Nations even clarified this point as did the European Union. 

Trump stated the the JCPOA’s sunset clause is reason enough for the US to consider it a bad deal

Logical Fail: This would imply that the US should want to extend the deal, not tear it apart and lose the confidence of Iran and other international partners

–Trump stated that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a terrorist group and will be sanctioned as such

False: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is one of the three main branches of Iran’s armed forces. Far from being a terrorist group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been instrumental in fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria. 

What happens next for the United States: 

As the European Union’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini correctly stated, Trump’s decision triggers a domestic legal mechanism which does not immediately trigger any change to the JCPOA’s status at an international level. Of course, the implications are very international and very dangerous, but this shall be addressed separately.

According to the unique mechanism that the US has created to monitor the JCPOA, a US President is responsible for certifying the deal’s legitimacy based on Iran’s alleged compliance or lack thereof, every 90 days. On the 15th of October, 2017, Trump will now formally de-certify the JCPOA at an Executive level.

This means that under the appliable laws, the JCPOA will now be debated in Congress. Congress can negate the deal which would lead to a formal US withdrawal, can attempt to impose further sanctions on Iran which could lead to Tehran calling the JCPOA null and void or the Congress could simply do nothing, meaning that the deal would stand unless Trump decides to use his executive power to formally withdraw the United States, something that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, the US does not currently plan to do.

What happens next for Iran: 

Iran has publicly indicated that if Washington withdraws from the JPCOA the deal with be null and void as a matter of fact. While such statements are highly serious, they are not technically official statements. They merely indicate Iran’s clear disgust with the United States and Donald Trump’s clearly anti-Iranian sentiments.

In reality there are three possibilities for Iran, many of which depend on the attitude and capablities of Iran’s other JCPOA partners.

1. Iran claims the deal to be null and void and begins to renegotiate new business deals with partners whose financial transactions are not dependant on the US Dollar. This would likely include Russia, China, Venezuela and very certainly Turkey as well. It could also include the EU, if as many EU figures have suggested, they would like to continue cooperating commercially with Iran irrespective of what the US does with the JCPOA.

2. The US formally withdraws from the JCPOA, but the deal remains in place with all the other parties to the deal including Europe. In this sense, the status quo would continue, only with the re-imposition of US sanctions.

Here, Europe would have to decide how much it is willing to do, in order to help Iran skirt US sanctions. In respect of Russia and China, there will be far fewer problems regarding skirting sanctions as both countries are becoming highly independent of Dollar based transactions and seek to further this process ever more rapidly.

3. The US formally withdraws from the JCPOA while Europe grudgingly follows along so as not to incur the wrath of the US which Europe is still largely dependent on in many respects. In such a scenario, Iran would focus almost all of its business endeavours on Russia, China and their partners, which still may well include neighbouring Turkey.

In summary:

Iran’s President Rouhani spoke shortly after Donald Trump and offered a highly measured response to Trump’s aggressive rhetoric. After encouraging Trump and his fellow Washingtonians to learn more about Iran’s history, he indicated that Iran’s position on the JPCOA as of today, is similar to that of Europe.

Rouhani stated,

“The EU and Iran must cooperate with each other to stand up to the destructive and improper moves concerning the JCPOA (the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

He continued, saying,

“The JCPOA is not negotiable at all and all sides must remain committed to their obligations under it and the US President or this country’s Congress must not be allowed to carry out a wrong measure against the JCPOA”.

What happens next for Europe: 

The European Union’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini offered one of the most robust European rebuttals of a statement from a US President since Germany and France opposed George W. Bush’s war on Iraq in 2003. Crucially, in spite of Brexit talks, the UK government has aligned itself with mainstream European opinion over Iran, while in 2003, a deeply pro-European British leader, Tony Blair followed the US into Iraq.

Mogherini reminded journalists that Trump’s decision is a domestic one which effects the US Congress rather than the status of the JCPOA internationally. She also stated that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 is the highest authority on the JCPOA and that no US President has the right to cancel a UN Resolution.

She affirmed Europe’s commitment to the JCPOA and Europe’s view that Iran is in full compliance with the deal. The words from both Brussels and Tehran would indicate that there is an increasing chance that the JCPOA could continue, even if the US formally withdraws or otherwise violates the deal in the eyes of the wider united international community.

Furthermore, Mogherini’s statement indicates that if the US either violates the JCPOA or formally withdraws (or both), that the US could be in violation of a UN resolution. While technically UNSC resolution 2231 is non-binding, the US could technically be named and shamed in the Security Council, should the three European countries with veto power decide to carry through with their robust support of the JCPOA.

What happens next for Russia: 

Russia is not only a strong supporter of the JCPOA, but Russia and Iran have been enjoying historically good bilateral relations. In addition to multiple commercial ventures, Russia and Iran, along with Turkey formed the Astana Peace Group for Syria. Russia continues to cooperate with Iran against terrorism in Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement saying,

“Russia remains committed to the JCPOA, is interested in preserving it, and will continue to fulfill its obligations under it. We call on all other participants to do the same”.

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said,

“The task is to prevent the collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we are calling on all sides to adhere to its statutes. We think that this agreement has large potential and should be fully implemented”.

As Russia is the closet partner to Iran, among all the parties to the JCPOA, Moscow and Tehran will almost certainly hold intensive talks to attempt to either salvage the JCPOA or come up with a backup proposal among willing partners.

Yesterday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel stated,

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue. We also have to tell the Americans that their behaviour on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA”.

This statement indicates that Russia and China could work with Europe to either preserve a post-US JCPOA, convince the US to change its position on the JCPOA or else formulate a new similar proposal which excludes the United States.

What happens next for China: 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying spoke earlier today and said,

“China’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue has been consistent. The JCPOA has played a key role in upholding international nuclear non-proliferation regime and the peace and stability of the Middle East region. We hope that all relevant parties will continue to uphold and implement the JCPOA”.

China’s position, like that of Russia has been totally consistent towards Iran and what’s more is that China presents Iran and Iran’s wider region substantial economic opportunities via One Belt–One Road. If anything, today’s announcement will only galvanise further Sino-Iranian cooperation efforts.

CONCLUSION: 

Donald Trump’s administration has been plagued with allegations of colluding with a foreign government from the moment he entered office and even before. The allegations have been true only with the caveat that it is not Russia with whom Trump is colluding but instead, that place is Israel.

Donald Trump’s speech about Iran was in parts almost identical to the speech Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave weeks ago before the UN General Assembly.

Fact checking Benjamin Netanyahu’s General Assembly speech

Furthermore, less than 24 hours prior to Trump’s speech, both the US and Israel withdrew their memberships of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) virtually simultaneously, in a clear sign of policy coordination that stinks of a concerted effort which is now being aimed directly at Iran.

In challenging the JCPOA so brazenly, Donald Trump has shown that he is willing to put an Israeli paranoia about Iran, a paranoia which frequently crosses a line into all out hate, above the interests of both his own country and that of America’s most loyal European allies.

The fate of the JCPOA is now in the hands of the other parties to the agreement, but for the United States, all credibility as a negotiating partner has been lost. This applies not only to Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela and China, but also to the European Union.

“America first”, has effectively become: America last.

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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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