Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

ISIS enters its final days

Terror group unlike to survive end of its phoney “Caliphate”

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

3,433 Views

Though ISIS has held together surprisingly strongly in the face of the attacks of its multiple enemies, the last two weeks suggest that the tipping point has finally been reached, and that its disintegration has now begun.

Over vast stretches of central Syria its hold has been broken, with towns and villages being rapidly restored to the Syrian government’s control.

Its siege of Deir Ezzor has been broken and its fighters there are being slowly surrounded in the part of that city which it still controls.

It has lost its alternative capital of Mayadin after just a few days of fighting.

The Syrian army is now pressing it hard in its heartland east of the Euphrates river, but contrary to expectations of an apocalyptic battle between ISIS and the Syrian army there, its resistance has been sporadic, and its attempts to mount counter-attacks against the Syrian army’s lines of communication have all ended in failure.

Further north the Kurds have driven it out of Raqqa – though at horrific cost, and only after a deal was done to allow the 350 remaining ISIS fighters in the city to leave – whilst in Iraq it has been unable to capitalise on the Iraqi army’s re-focus on the Kurds to regain ground it has lost.

The organisation is not completely broken.  The rapid advance of the Syrian army through central Syria has left bands of ISIS fighters still roaming around the central Syrian countryside, cut off from their comrades further east, but still dangerous.

Within Syria ISIS still controls a rapidly contracting belt of territory on either side of the Euphrates river, though it is no longer in possession of any major towns.

However ISIS still controls some towns in western Iraq, notably the small but important town of Al-Qaim.

ISIS also remains capable of limited offensives in odd places: for example ISIS fighters recently carried out a successful attack against Al-Qaeda fighters within the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the suburbs of Damascus.

However the strongest sign that the organisation is indeed starting to disintegrate is that it appears to have lost a series of running battles it recently fought against Al-Qaeda in Jihadi controlled areas of north west Syria, a fact which suggests that as the star of its “Caliphate” wanes it is losing the loyalty of Jihadi fighters, some of whom may be switching back to Al-Qaeda.

Most striking of all is the reported mass defection of tribal fighters formerly loyal to ISIS who were guarding the key Al-Omar oil fields in eastern Syria.  They appear to have gone over en masse to the Kurdish led and US backed “Syrian Democratic Forces”, the umbrella name for the Kurdish led force which has just captured Raqqa.

No doubt this defection was carefully staged and was intended to keep the Al-Omar oil fields – the largest in Syria – out of the Syrian government’s hands.  However even if the defection was staged, it still points to an ongoing collapse on the part of ISIS in eastern Syria.

The critical remaining battle against ISIS in Syria is the one in the city of Deir Ezzor.  This is apparently a much bigger city than Raqqa (the published population figures for the two cities, which do not bear out this claim, are out of date and wrong) and there continues to be fierce fighting there between the Syrian army and the ISIS fighters who over the course of a four year siege were able to capture around two fifths of the city.

However latest reports suggest that the Syrian army has the ISIS fighters in Deir Ezzor largely surrounded, and it seems that their resistance there cannot be sustained for very long.  Most expect it to collapse within the next few days or possibly weeks.

When the collapse in Deir Ezzor comes that will release more Syrian troops to take the fight to ISIS elsewhere, at which point the pace of its disintegration will accelerate.

The received wisdom in the Western media is that ISIS will nonetheless be able to survive these defeats and the imminent loss of its remaining territory.  Supposedly, though these defeats will destroy the fiction of its “Caliphate”, ISIS will nonetheless be able to transform itself back into the terrorist and guerrilla organisation which it was before its territorial conquests of 2014, and will be able to survive that way.  For a classic though intelligent and nuanced statement of this view, see this lengthy article in the Guardian, which by the way is also remarkable for its failure to make any reference whatsoever to Iran and Russia and to the central role of those countries in the defeat of ISIS.

I do not agree with this view.  I think those Western commentators who hold it still have not grasped the implications of ISIS’s proclamation of the Caliphate and its declaration that it is the “Islamic State” to which all Muslims everywhere owe allegiance.

There is no going back on this claim and the making of it means that ISIS became a different organisation because of it than it had been before, and cannot go back to being the same sort of organisation again that it was before.

The thousands of fighters who flocked to ISIS in preference to other older and more established Jihadi organisations such as Al-Qaeda, and who fought ISIS’s battles for it after 2014, did so because they believed its claim that it was the Islamic State and that Al-Baghdadi was Islam’s Caliph.  Al-Baghdadi and ISIS’s other leaders cannot now credibly tell them that it was all a mistake, and expect them to remain loyal to ISIS in spite of it.

What that means is that the existence of ISIS is now inextricably bound up with its Caliphate.  As has been correctly said, a Caliphate without territory is no longer credible, and I would add that a Caliphate which has been repeatedly and resoundingly defeated by “apostate” and “Christian” armies is not credible either.

Perhaps if Al-Baghdadi survives the debacle and finds somewhere where he can hide he will continue to attract some followers who will still in spite of everything continue to accept him as Islam’s Caliph.  The number of these people will however be tiny – what sort of Caliph has to hide? – and whatever organisation survives ISIS’s loss of its territory it will be a shadow of the organisation ISIS once was.

I predicted all this and ISIS’s imminent demise in an article I wrote for Sputnik on 19th January 2016 – ie. shortly after the Russian intervention in Syria began – in which I also expressed some views about the organisation’s origins and the reasons for its ephemeral success.

Since this article was relatively short and sums up my views of the reasons both for the emergence of the organisation and for its eventual failure, I will set it out here in full

The Islamic State (also known as Daesh) is the bastard child of the US’s drive to achieve regime change in Syria.

To that end the US and its allies instigated an armed insurrection against the Syrian government.

Though protests — many of them violent — began in 2011, it was in 2012 — after the Geneva Peace Conference — which the US wrecked by insisting President Assad stand down — that the major fighting began, with a rebel offensive against Syria’s two biggest cities: Aleppo and Damascus.

The offensive failed. The Syrian government survived, retaining control of Damascus and half of Aleppo.

Defending these cities and the populated coastal core of Syria however forced the Syrian army to withdraw from large areas of Syrian territory, most of them desert.

In 2013 the military balance shifted back to the Syrian government.

The US response was to try to use a chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as a pretext to bomb Syria. When that failed because of strong opposition from Russia and US public opinion it stepped up support for the insurgency.

Weapons, money and fighters poured in, and over the course of 2014 the military balance shifted back to the rebels again.

The main beneficiary was the organisation that now calls itself the Islamic State.

This began as the Iraqi branch of the global jihadi terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

It took advantage of the vacuum created by the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Syria’s desert regions to expand into Syria and to establish itself there.

As the best organised, most violent and most militant of the jihadi groups that form the core of the Syrian rebellion, it quickly achieved predominance especially as it focused on seizing territory rather than fighting the Syrian army.

In 2014 it went on the offensive in Iraq, seizing the important city of Mosul.

Shortly after it declared itself the Islamic State and proclaimed its leader — the man known as Ibrahim Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi — Islam’s Caliph.

The Islamic State is said to have a Wahhabist or Salafist ideology, like those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and like that of its original parent, Al-Qaeda.  Actually it combines Salafism with an apocalyptic vision previously unknown to Islam.

As it says its leader is the Caliph it claims to be the only legitimate government for Muslims.

It rules the areas it controls by violence and terror, backed by money it gets from the Gulf and from the illegal oil trade.

All this explains why following Russia’s military intervention in Syria it is doomed.

The Russian military intervention means there is no danger of the Syrian government collapsing — as looked possible just a few months ago.

The Syrian army has now been able to go on the offensive, and is advancing on all fronts.

The Islamic State cannot withstand the Syrian army backed by the Russian airforce and Iran and Russia.  However if it fails to hold the territory it has seized its claim to be the Islamic State collapses.

The only way the Islamic State could survive would be if the US and its allies acted to save it.

Its appalling violence and megalomaniac pretensions means that for the US it is however an embarrassment not an asset.  The main thing Its grotesque antics have achieved is to unite world opinion behind the Syrian government and Russia.

Instead of willing the Islamic State’s survival, the US would far rather it disappear so it can support the other jihadi terrorist groups — the so-called “moderates” — without embarrassment.

That seals the Islamic State’s fate.

It follows from this that there is no realistic prospect of ISIS or an organisation like it reappearing once it is destroyed.  The conditions which created it – the US drive for regime change in Syria and the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi governments’ authority over large areas of their territory – no longer exist.
The regime change project in Syria has conclusively failed, and both the Syrian and Iraqi governments are now busy regaining control of their national territory and reasserting their authority over it.
There is no flood of US weapons going to Iraq or Syria to fuel Jihadi insurgencies there, and no territorial vacuum in which an organisation like ISIS might emerge.
As for the view beloved of some Western commentators who still hanker for regime change in Syria that the Sunni populations of Syria and Iraq will never reconcile themselves to the allegedly Alawite led Syrian government in Damascus or the allegedly Shia led Iraqi government in Baghdad, and that this will supposedly draw them to support militant Jihadist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda unless those governments are overthrown or changed, I have explained the fallacy behind these arguments many times.
Briefly, though the people of Syria and Iraq are certainly religious, their sectarian differences are consistently overstated.  The great majority of them are Muslims certainly, but their political and national self-identification is first and foremost to Syria and Iraq and to the Arab nation, not to Sunnism and Shiism, whose differences Western commentators anyway tend to misunderstand and overstate.
The current conflict within Islam is not between Sunni and Shia.  It is between a small and very violent minority of Takfiri militants manipulated by certain Western and Arab powers, and the vast majority of Muslims – Sunni as well as Shia – who are opposed to them.
I would add that if any Syrian or Iraqi Sunnis in eastern Syria or western Iraq were ever drawn to the sort of militant Salafi totalitarianism which ISIS represents, the reality of rule by ISIS will have quickly disabused them of their illusions.  It beggars belief that any large settled population in any country whatever its sectarian preferences would prefer the bleak and bloodthirsty rule of an organisation like ISIS – with public beheadings for the most trivial ‘offences’, slavery, a rampant drugs trade, systematic sexual abuse, and practices which in all respects amount essentially to murderous gangsterism – to the rule of a conventional government.

I discussed all this previously in another article I wrote for Sputnik on 4th October 2015

It seems to me Western pundits are making the same mistake now about Syria they made about Chechnya before.

They assume recklessly that local people prefer terrorism and violent jihadism to peace and orderly government.

They fantasise about the existence of a “third force” consisting of people opposing the government and those fighting it whom they also also oppose.

That this “third force” has no existence outside their imaginations was proved true in Chechnya, as it had previously proved true in Vietnam, and is undoubtedly true in Syria today.  The US admits it.

The latest opinion poll in Syria and Iraq exposes the extent of their mistake.

It shows very low support for the Islamic State in Iraq, and low support for the Islamic State in Syria.

It shows overwhelming majorities of Syrians and Iraqis reject sectarianism, want their countries to remain united, and believe the Islamic State is a creation of the US.

It shows a very wide belief in Syria that conditions were better before the war.

Given the danger of speaking out against the Islamic State in the areas it controls, the poll almost certainly underestimates the extent of opposition to it.

It shows a clear majority of Syrians support a position in all essentials identical to that of the Russian government: an end to the war, the defeat of jihadi terrorists, a return to peaceful conditions, and negotiations without preconditions between Syria’s factions.
As it happens in not a single town that the Syrian or Iraqi armies have liberated from ISIS or Al-Qaeda have the local people shown the least desire to have the Jihadis back.
Predictions that following the liberation of Aleppo from Al-Qaeda and of Mosul from ISIS Jihadi insurgencies would rise up against the “Alawite” and “Shia” authorities amongst the Sunni people of those cities have been proved to be completely wrong.
In the case of Syria the overwhelming response of the local people – Sunni as well as Shia – to the arrival in their towns and villages of the Syrian army has been to welcome it as a liberator, not to take up arms against it alongside the Jihadis to drive it back.
The pending defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria therefore signals the death-knell of the organisation, both as a territorial Caliphate and as a terrorist organisation.
A few fanatics gathered around Al-Baghdadi may try to continue the struggle, and ISIS pockets may linger for a while in a few places like Libya, Afghanistan and Nigeria.  However with its Caliphate gone the organisation itself is doomed.
Though Jihadi terrorism will continue in some form at least for a while – and will continue to pose a threat around the world – with the rapid recovery of state authority in Syria and Iraq the conditions which made it possible for an entity like ISIS to emerge are gone.
The focus of Jihadi activity will shift elsewhere, possibly to north Africa or Afghanistan or to the Arabian Peninsula, or conceivably to the increasingly disaffected Muslim populations of western Europe where for specific cultural reasons violent Jihadism has a particular appeal.
The organisation which will lead the renewed Jihadi struggle – if there is one – will however be Al-Qaeda, which has always been a far more sophisticated, well-resourced and intelligently led organisation than ISIS ever was.
As for ISIS – discredited by its failure in Syria and Iraq and disgraced by its grotesque atrocities – its time of power and terror is almost up.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

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

Published

on

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.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

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.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

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.

Published

on

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.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

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

Published

on

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].

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending