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Google Whistleblower Reveals Database of Censored, Blacklisted Websites

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Google Logo. (Photo: Robert Scoble)

“But for them to go under oath and say that theses blacklists don’t exist, well employees like me are able to just search through the internal search engine of the company and see that they do, it is hypocritical at the least and it’s perjury at the worst.”

A former Google engineer leaked nearly 1,000 files showing how the tech behemoth and his former employer does in fact censor and maintain a blacklist of websites, despite repeated Google claims that it does not manipulate its search engine algorithm results.

Zachary Vorhies, who worked at Google for eight years, released the documents to Project Veritas and the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division. He went officially on the record with his name on Wednesday – a decision he says he made after Google sent him a letter demanding the return of company files and called the police to perform a “wellness check” on him. Voorhies also gave an interview to Fox News contributor Sara Carter.

Vorhies’ leak comes only months after CEO Sundar Pichai testified last December before members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, in a hearing titled “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices.”

Pichai answered questions pertaining to allegations of search engine bias, content moderation, data and location tracking and Google’s plans to develop a search engine for China.

During the hearing, Pichai testified that the search engine was politically neutral and results were determined by “things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it.”

In his interview with Project Veritas, Vorhies referenced Pichai’s testimony before Congress calling it hypocritical and possible perjury.

“If Google wants to have political bias and if they wanna say they have political bias that is their right as a company.

“But for them to go under oath and say that theses blacklists don’t exist, well employees like me are able to just search through the internal search engine of the company and see that they do, it is hypocritical at the least and it’s perjury at the worst,” Vorhies said.

Vorhies said he turned to Project Veritas to go public with the documents because he felt he saw something “dark” in the tech giant that could severely affect U.S. elections and Americans as well.

“I saw something dark and nefarious going on with the company, and I realized that they were going to not only tamper with the elections but use that tampering with the elections to essentially overthrow the United States,” the whistleblower told Project Veritas.

What’s in the Google Dump?

Vorhies released hundreds of pages of internal Google documents which he said were widely available to Google employees.

“These documents were available to every single employee within the company that was full-time. And so as a fulltime employee at the company, I just searched for some keywords and these documents started to pop up. And so once I started finding one document and started finding keywords for other documents and I would enter that in and continue this cycle until I had a treasure trove and archive of documents that clearly spelled out the system, what they’re attempting to do in very clear language,” Vorhies told Project Veritas.

Among the documents is a file titled “news black list site for google now” which Vorhies alleges shows how Google has blacklisted hundreds of mostly conservative websites, though progressive-leaning websites like meidamatters.org and theantimedia.org are also included.

In his interview with Sara Carter, Vorhies told her he mailed his laptop to the Justice Department and that the provided documents would prove that Google manipulates its algorithms and provide evidence of how it was done.

“When they see what Google has actually written with the documents, this will actually be taught in universities of what totalitarian states can do with this type of capability,” Vorhies told Carter.

Project Veritas organized Vorhies’s Google dump into ten different downloadable folders titles: Censorship, Fake news, Leadership Training, Partisanship, Everything.zip, Politics, Hiring Practices, Machine Learning Fairness, Psychological Research, Misc and Video. Citizen Truth has read through some of the documents but all documents are available for anyone to read here on the Project Veritas website.

Many of the documents in the Fake News folder detail Google’s efforts to combat the spread of fake news. One document titled “[Training] [Global] Google efforts to address Fake News – 2016 Q4.pdf” outlines how fake news spread during the 2016 election and specifically how “bad actors used the Facebook News Feed to promote fake news sites.”

The document explains how Google banned such sites from monetizing their websites via Google Adsense but then a new issue of ads promoting misleading content appeared. Google’s solution to issue a publisher update banning “misrepresentative content” shows how the tech company is walking the fine line of trying to ban “bad actors” but also granting themselves the authority to determine what is “misrepresentative content.”

Another document titled “Fringe ranking/classifer: Defining channel quality” lists an example of a ranking of various news sites, including CNN, Breitbart, The Young Turks, and FOX News. A document titled “Fake news & other fringe: Trashy recap” reveals that videos are rated by multiple “human raters.”

Other documents in the dump touch on inherent bias in machine learning, creating a diverse workforce at Google and even include some resumes of Google employees.

Vorhies Alleges Intimidation by Google

Vorhies claimed that after he was ‘outed’ as a leaker by an anonymous account on social media, which Vorhies told Project Veritas he believed belonged to Google, police in California showed up at his home. Vorhies claimed that Google called San Francisco police to perform a “wellness check” on him.

“They got inside the gate, the police, and they started banging on my door… And so the police decided that they were going to call in additional forces. They called in the FBI, they called in the SWAT team. And they called in a bomb squad,” said Vorhies as he described the experience to Project Veritas.

“[T]his is a large way in which [Google tries to] intimidate their employees that go rogue on the company…” Vorhies added.

Can Google Influence a Country’s Politics?

Last Tuesday, August 6, President Donald Trump slammed Google via Twitter accusing them of working to prevent his re-election in the upcoming 2020 election, though Trump offered no detailed evidence.

Trump’s tweet came after a Fox and Friends television program aired an interview with former Google engineer Kevin Cernekee, who claims he was fired for his right-leaning political views, claimed Google was working to prevent Trump’s election in 2020.

“When President Trump won in 2016, Google executives went on stage right away and cried — literal tears streaming down their faces. They vowed that it would never happen again and they want to use all the power and resources they have to control the flow of information to the public and make sure that Trump loses in 2020,” said Kevin Cernekee.

Google says Cernekee was fired for multiple violations of company policy including misuse of company equipment and downloading confidential company information; Google describes Cernekee as a disgruntled employee.

But could Google actually wield that much power over a national election?

Jeff Hancock, Danaë Metaxa-Kakavouli, and Joon Park, in their article for the Guardian, explained that a search engine such as Google could play a vital role in shaping public opinion and political points of view and yes, could affect the result of an election.

“Recent studies suggest that search engines, rather than providing a neutral way to find information, may actually play a major role in shaping public opinion on political issues and candidates. Some research has even argued that search results can affect the outcomes of close elections. In a study aptly titled In Google We Trust participants heavily prioritized the first page of search results, and the order of the results on that page, and continued to do so even when researchers reversed the order of the actual results,” the writers wrote.

In one example the authors provided, a search for “Trump news” turned up nine search results, eight of which were center-left. But as the authors point out, the Google search engine is designed from the outset to look for information from credible sources and that particular search is only one search in one point of time. Bias must be observed and recorded over a long period of time.

The question remains whether Vorhies’ documents do, in fact, prove that Google manipulates search results and is not merely filtering out “fake news” and “bad actors.”

Are Google employees purposefully manipulating its algorithms to achieve an intended political goal or as Google works to tackle fake news and misinformation is the unintended political bias of its human programmers creeping in? Or has Google figured it all out and is fairly tackling the heady issue of fake news but maybe lacking in providing enough transparency to instill confidence in its mechanisms?

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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  1. Larry N Stout August 15, 2019

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  2. Betty flora September 17, 2019

    Both Democrats and Republicans should unite against Google on this one, before it’s too late. No one company should yield this much power. Just look back throughout history to see what this invariably leads to. Complete control!! I vote Green Party, so it pains me to say this. But the truth is more important every time.

    1. Kenny January 24, 2020

      “Nobody secures a dictatorship to ensure a revolution, they start a revolution to secure the dictatorship. The object of power is power, the object of wealth is wealth, the object of torture is torture; you now begin to understand me” George Orwell

  3. Kenny January 24, 2020

    Unfortunately the Google engine is used as a sub mask for some of the more private search engines that don’t record your data. Nice to have the privacy, but your search is still filtered by Google.

    SwissCows is a search engine that doesn’t record your data nor does it filter the results. It’s so nice to see both sides of an issue while doing searches.


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