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For some Western leaders, the Cold War never ended

President Trump played both sides of the Russia game with skill in confronting NATO members, but he knows Russia is no threat.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The “no food on the plates” breakfast talk that President Donald Trump gave is making a lot of news, on The Duran, and everywhere else. His morning smackdown of NATO was unprecedented. The alliance’s decades-long delinquency of member nations to meet their financial obligations has never been addressed so directly by any American president.

Fox News’ Sean Hannity commented extensively on this, as has The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and many others, on the clarity that President Trump is showing by simply telling the NATO member leaders where things stand.

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But on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, some very interesting elements were brought up that reveal just how strongly embedded the mentality actually is among the American political machine that the Cold War is still going on – even to the place where Russia is still referred to as “The Soviet Union.”

In Rush’s broadcast dated July 11, he referred to the sound-clip of the breakfast talk where President Trump used NATO’s own perceived mission to point out Germany’s inconsistency, both in terms of paying only slightly over half of their required commitment into the alliance fund, as well as doing things that go against that same mission by making a very lucrative deal with the Russian Federation to have natural gas piped in directly to Germany without the pipeline crossing through any other NATO member state, as noted in this excerpt from the transcript of Rush’s program (emphasis added):

The NATO secretary general thought it would help him out to praise Trump for getting all of these NATO nations to up their donations, contributions to their own defense budgets, which is… There aren’t any dues paid to NATO in this sense. The “dues” that Trump talks about, every member nation has to pledge to spend a certain percent on its national defense. We have to pledge to spent 4% of GDP on it. They have to pledge 1 or 2%, depending on the country.

Many of them haven’t been spending any, including Germany, has been spending nothing! And this has been Trump’s big bugaboo. So for the past year and a half Trump’s been on these people to up their own defense spending — i.e., protect yourselves for a little bit here. And Jens Stoltenberg exults to President Trump (impression), “You have done it. We have increased the spending, and it’s all because of your leadership.” So Trump engineers praise, he engineers his leadership being commended, and then this…

TRUMP: We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries, and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1%. Whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So I think that’s inappropriate also. Now, this has been going on for decades. This has been brought up by other presidents, but other presidents never did anything about it because I don’t think they understood it or they just didn’t want to get involved. But I have to bring it up because I think it’s very unfair to our country; it’s very unfair to our taxpayers.

RUSH: Now, he’s right. It’s always been given lip service. A lot of presidents have come along and talked about the unfairness. Never did anything about it. Trump, after just having been exalted and praised, then unloads on these people and particularly Germany, and this is what has Christiane Amanpour sniffing the vapors today. John Kerry can barely keep his horse face off the floor, he can’t buy it. Chris Stirewalt at Fox News says Trump is apparently no different than a bird flying over NATO and dropping a bunch of droppings all over these people. They just can’t accept what is happening here!

But the singling out of Germany, this is about a specific pipeline that is called Nord Stream. And what has happened here, is all of Europe has become totally dependent on Russia for natural gas and in some cases, oil. The pipelines to European countries come straight from Russia — some of them through Crimea, other places. What Angela Merkel did was cut a secret, special deal with Putin where she gets a direct pipeline of natural gas right into Germany that does not go through any of the other NATO countries.

She made a sweetheart deal with Putin, excluding other NATO countries, and Trump has called her out on this and is claiming that by doing this, she is putting herself at great disadvantage with Putin in a geopolitical and diplomatic sense because now Germany has become so dependent on Putin. Now, everybody thinks that Trump loves Putin because Putin helped Trump steal the election…

Now, the NordStream pipeline is indeed a project that pipes natural gas from Russia to various European countries. We have reported here on The Duran about this matter from the point of view that it is very practical for European countries to accept such exports from Russia for one very simple reason: Cost (which is a lot less coming through a pipeline from a nearby country) and ease of supply.

Further, we have noted that the US has tried to force NATO members to buy US natural gas at prices that are much higher because of the simple issue of transportation costs. The US after all, is 3000 miles away at minimum, where Russia is just next door.

President Trump suggested in his talk that it would be possible for Europe to get it from the US for a lower cost than from Russia. He also posed the notion of a belligerent Russia under President Vladimir Putin which would seem to be quite the shock, especially as he plans to have a summit meeting with the same President Putin in just four days from now.

However, Mr. Trump appears to be using all this to make a very salient point – that NATO is irrelevant on several levels, and it is an extremely expensive irrelevant effort.

How expensive it actually is may be a shock. Sean Hannity reported on his program that the US spends about $709 billion as its committment to the alliance.

Independent checks on that amount bear this out:

We first consulted NATO’s latest budget report for 2017. (A report with projected 2018 defense spending was released after Trump’s initial comment, but this doesn’t change the facts surrounding the claim.) The 2017 numbers show defense spending data of all member countries from 2010 to 2016 and 2017 estimates.

By NATO’s count, total defense spending of all NATO members stood at about $957 billion in 2017. The United States’ share was about $686 billion. Do the math, and the percentage of U.S. spending is about 72 percent. (We don’t know the source for the  90 percent number.)

But what do these numbers mean? The spending doesn’t represent money spent on behalf of NATO, nor for NATO. They’re the total defense budgets of NATO members. For 2017, the defense spending of all NATO members totaled about $957 billion.

As an important note, the spending attributed is the spending of the total defense budget of any given nation, and the amount of this that is reserved specifically for the NATO alliance is not given. However, the United States spends far more on defense than any other nation in the world, and it pays a higher percentage of its own GDP (here shown as 3.5% in contrast to President Trump’s claim of 4.2%) and that percentage is still far higher than the nearest next paying member, Greece, with 2.27% of its GDP so involved.

Germany, the most powerful and wealthy member state of NATO in Europe, pays only about 1.24% of its GDP for NATO, well under the guideline of two percent.

The aforementioned 2018 NATO report also shows the USA solidly in the lead for this year:

President Trump has thrown the problem into sharp relief. NATO came into existence to defend Europe against a perceived expansionist Soviet threat. That threat no longer exists. The only actions that are being tagged as “threat” are the issues surrounding the EuroMaidan uprising in the Ukraine,  and the Crimean referendum that resulted from the coup in Ukraine’s government, where the Crimean citizens voted vastly in favor of reunification with the Russian Federation.

But this leads to the second point that Rush Limbaugh rather inadvertently exposed. That is the perception common among many members of the American leadership that Russia is not free of the fetters of Communism. Rush Limbaugh himself regularly takes issue with President Putin’s stated regret over the demise of the Soviet Union, a remark which was largely taken out of context.

Rush’s transcript for July 11 shows this the most clearly (emphasis added):

Bill Richardson. Grab audio sound bite No. 10. Former ambassador to the United Nations (for, I think, the Clintons) and former governor of New Mexico. He was on CNN this morning, and the infobabe anchorette Poppy Harlow said, “The president says this, Governor, as he heads to Russia and a Monday sit down with Putin. Does he have a point? Is this a smart strategy, what Trump is doing with NATO?”

RICHARDSON: It’s very… I believe very questionable strategy. Uh, NATO is very important to the United States. Germany’s the strongest partner we have in NATO. I don’t understand the president’s tactics. I think he wants to get leverage over Germany on trade, on tariffs. But the important message here is — is one of saying to Russia, “Look, uh, you’re the most important relationship for us and Europe.” This is not — should not be the case —

HARLOW: Mmm-hmm.

RICHARDS: — that NATO is diminished by some of the president’s remarks.

HARLOW: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.

RICHARDS: So I’m — I’m — I’m very troubled by this attitude and this effort to basically (snickers) undermine NATO.

RUSH: See, who is undermining NATO? This is why these people have it ass-backwards. Pardon my French. NATO is undermining NATO! That’s what all this is about. Trump’s not undermining anything. Trump’s simply calling it out. Do we have time for the next Richardson bite? We do. Cram it in there right now.

RICHARDSON: It doesn’t have a basis in fact. Uh, NATO countries host 28 American military bases. There are 40,000 American troop… Uh, European troops in Afghanistan. They help us — NATO helps us against radical Islamic countries, against Soviet [sic] expansionism. Uh, they are very much a part of the most important security alliance since the Cold War that America has.

The Soviet Union ended 27 years ago. Twenty-seven years is a very long time not to change one’s perception. 

The most interesting thing about this is that regardless of anyone’s political opinion or bias about who is what, Mr. Trump’s point still stands: The NATO alliance is undercutting itself and its stated purpose by making deals with the national entity it is supposed to be defending itself against. It is further in a state of not meeting up to its own financial commitment to its own security, and purposely or tacitly imposing an inappropriately large financial burden on four or five of its member nations. Trump is expressing clearly that the US no longer wishes to play along with this. It is unnecessary for American taxpayers to pay the bills of others.

Regardless of opinion, this is certainly a real set of problems that must be addressed.

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cstahnkeJohn MasonGergragor11aMarc Leif Recent comment authors
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John Mason
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John Mason

Where is the skill in confronting spineless vassals who are too eager to please and are waiting for their rewards. EU citizens should do what the French did during their revolution but go one step further, let non of the elite and bureaucrat survive, exterminate the lot.

cstahnke
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cstahnke

I’m not sure what the writer is getting at here except when it comes to “Russia” everyone goes nuts. The “threat” of Russia is far more believable than the largely manufactured threat of “terrorism.” The problem with the terrorist threat is that while it had the potential to keep the populations of the West in a state of fear it also caused governments to lose the respect of the population if they “allowed” terror acts to succeed. So the Western security services decided to pump up other “threats” from Libya, Syria but these didn’t pan out as planned. Iran is… Read more »

Ger
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Ger

These are some f…. serious NATO numbers. Like ten times the Russian total military budget. US has $685 billion in this pyramid scheme? The TOTAL reported US military appropriations for 2018/2019 was around $760 billion! As that great mathematician Jethro Bodine said: “I may not can figure but I can cipher’.

gragor11a
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gragor11a

Maybe the Americans want to go it alone seeing as how all the rest of the NATO countries are such slackards. I saw that Canada was right there next go Germany only even lower. Yea. I could live with the US going it alone.

All this carnage to get a pipeline from Qatar to Europe.

Marc Leif
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Marc Leif

I have long maintained that the country which “won” the Cold War was Russia. Russia got to throw off the shackles of a bankrupt, unreformable, corrupt dictatorship and build a true market based, democratic, modern state resuming a process that was catastrophically interrupted by World War 1, the Revolution and Civil War, and then World War II and the Cold War.
It’s the US which will collapse because it is STILL a Soviet style system.

Rastislav Veľká Morava
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Rastislav Veľká Morava

Oh how the west must now wish for the return of the “Soviet Union”! Instead they they have a strong, modern, open and democratic Russia, who just hosted the most successful World Cup of the ages:)

franz kafka
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franz kafka

The US is protecting the dead corpse of Europe from what exactly? Buzzards?

Besides, the only war the USA has ever won was its war on Reality.

A truly, commitably insane nation.

The sooner it is erased from the world map, the better.

John Vu
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John Vu

Until the sun stops rising, Deepstate thrives on chaos.

AM Hants
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AM Hants

Is this the reason Trump needs to speak to President Putin? To save Washington DCs good friends The White Helmets? Taken out in Syria or safe passage home.

West Scrambling to Find Options to Pull White Helmets Out of Syria – Reports… https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201807151066373916-west-to-rescue-white-helmets/

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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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